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Potash production slows in Sask. due to Port of Vancouver strike

As the BC port workers’ strike stretches into its second week, potash production is being impacted in Saskatchewan.

“Vancouver just sneezed, and the rest of us caught a cold,” said Keith Willoughby, dean of the Edwards School of Business.

With more than 7,000 port workers striking for better pay and protection from automation, Saskatchewan fertilizer giant Nutrien announced it would curtail production at its Cory plant as a result.

“It’s the news a lot of us are worried about,” Willoughby told CTV News. “Because we’re concerned with the news of curtailing production at the Nutrien plant. Will this be the first shoe to drop in terms of other industries that might be impacted by the situation?”

Willoughby says industries are barely now recovering from the impacts of the supply chain issues caused by the pandemic.

“We've seen over the past three years that supply chains have been vulnerable to different situations that have been experienced across the globe,” he said.

“We pride ourselves in this province that we have an economy -and rightly so- that is built upon a real treasure of natural resources that we can use to our advantage. But then we have the challenges when those natural resources can't get to where they're needed. We face now the economic challenges associated with the circumstances that we're observing in the Port of Vancouver.”

He says while supply chains are resilient, they are slow to respond.

“I wish they could be more nimble,” said Willoughby. “I wish they could respond more quickly, but they can’t. So whenever you introduce outside pressure on a supply chain, such as the Port of Vancouver being shut down. It’s going to create those bottlenecks that are backing up through the system.”

Premier Scott Moe credits federal ministers for being on the ground in Vancouver to lend assistance but urges a resolution to the strike.

“The impact is not only to Saskatchewan,” said Moe. “It’s estimated to be between a half to three-quarters of a billion dollars’ impact on the Canadian economy. We desperately need that port to be open, and open for each and every day going forward.”

As a landlocked province, Moe says a large amount of the traffic that flows through the Port of Vancouver comes from Saskatchewan.

“Twenty per cent of the port’s volume comes from the province, 40 per cent of our exports go through the Port of Vancouver.”

Willoughby says it’s unfortunate, but there’s little more government can do besides advocating for Saskatchewan businesses to ensure access to ports.

Nutrien declined to comment but did confirm the company has no plans for layoffs.

“In this case, curtailment means slowing down potash production and focusing our efforts on maintenance and capital projects at our Cory site,” reads the statement from Nutrien. “We are not planning on implementing layoffs and we will continue to monitor the situation.”

Moe has encouraged federal Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan to use all available tools to help find a resolution to the strike. Top Stories

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