Canada Faces Holiday Liquor Shortages

By Ben Hamill - December 16 2021

 Canada Faces Holiday Liquor Shortages

Some Canadians may have a drier holiday season than they would like if they don’t shop early or pluck up the courage to try a new tipple. The country is facing alcohol shortages due to supply chain disruptions concerning production, transportation, and demand for liquor. According to reports, most of the backlog affects imported alcohol.

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The Issues At Play

Production is one of the issues affecting Canada’s alcohol supply. Crops in some wine-producing regions were negatively impacted by droughts and fires. The production issue wasn’t helped by labour shortages, especially where varieties that rely heavily on manual work are concerned.

In addition to those issues, alcohol production has faced shortages of bottles, cans, screw caps, and other packaging materials.

Chief supply chain officer for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, Nick Nanos, said that vendors’ production schedules were further impacted by raw material availability, adverse growing conditions in France, New Zealand, and other regions, and changing consumer demand.

Nanos encouraged consumers to shop earlier than usual if they want to take advantage of a better selection of holiday favourite and gifts. He added that shoppers may need to be more flexible when it comes to their choices, and he said that they might see these times as an opportunity to try new drinks.

Inventory backlogs also have not been helped by blank sailings, a global shortage of containers, and port congestion. Blank sailing is the term used for cargo vessels cancelling or skipping a port of call.

According to supply chain management export, Prof Saibal Ray of the Bensadoun School of Retail Management at McGill University, the scarcity of transportation infrastructure has been particularly problematic for wine shipments due to the need for temperature-controlled containers.

In Canada, flooding in British Columbia also has affected shipping along major routes. The products most impacted by these challenges are from Australia and New Zealand. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the alcohol industry’s production and transportation challenges have been worsened by an increase in demand driven by the pandemic.

In November, medical journal JAMA Network Open published research that showed alcohol sales skyrocketed during the pandemic. Canadian alcohol sales soared beyond pre-pandemic estimates by 5.5% or $1.86 billion over a 16-month period.

In New Brunswick, champagne and sparkling wine sales soared during the second half of the pandemic. New Brunswick Liquor Corp. spokesperson Marie-Andree Bolduc predicted popular brands such as Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot will be increasingly difficult to find in the province.

Local Liquor Is Available

While the situation regarding imported alcohol is far from ideal, there is still a good supply of locally produced products. Canadian breweries, distilleries, and wineries are more than happy to fill the gaps in shoppers’ carts.

Ontario Craft Wineries chair and Westcott Vineyards co-owner Carolyn Hurst said they have full larders. According to Hurst, every Ontario winery has a healthy stock of products and continue to ship daily.