Calgary bubble tea businesses impacted by Suez Canal blockage
CALGARY -- It's been almost a month since the Ever Given container ship was freed from the Suez Canal. It was stuck for six days blocking the canal and upwards of 350 ships waiting for passage.
Now the impact of the disrupted global supply chain from Asia is being felt in Calgary.
There are dozen's of bubble tea shops in the city that rely on ingredients from Taiwan where the drink originated.
Lindsay Do is the owner of Royaltea in the southwest. She typically picks up a few boxes of the key ingredient, tapioca pearls, daily from her local supplier. Now the supplier is limiting the amount business owners can purchase.
"That's when I came to realize," said Do. "What do you mean I can't pick up five cases? It's just down to one box per customer."
Her inventory is down to six boxes and each box of the precious pearls lasts for about 4 days if she's lucky. Do remembers seeing the news and the massive container ship stuck in late March.
"I thought it was just going to be ok," said Do. "It's going to be maybe a quick fix if the ship is like that but it's important so they'll get to it, I didn't expect it to take that long, I didn't expect it to have a huge impact like this at all."
Her store opened in June 2020 and Do has a number of loyal customers that are helping her survive through the pandemic. She's hopeful that if they can't have their regular bubble tea that they will try another menu item that doesn't include the tapioca pearls.
Sam Woods is the Vice President of Jori Logistics, which works with small to medium sized businesses.
Woods describes the venture as a travel agent for commercial goods. He says the cost of shipping has gone up steadily since December 2020.
"So you have increased demand from Asia and then you have ports that can't unload the cargo fast enough," said Woods. "What you have is vessels moored outside Long Beach, which is the biggest port on the west coast so that slows everything down."
Now he's telling clients that the sea container that cost $2,500 a year ago is currently up to $6,500. The Ever Given debacle is pushing those costs even higher.
"And so when I saw the Ever Given I'm like, oh no, this is going to exacerbate this already big issue that's happening," said Woods.
Now suppliers who rely on product from Asia are being challenged and Woods says it will impact consumers in Calgary.
"There will be some sort of rising prices from this, there has to be except for companies who are making container bookings months in advance, I think they should be ok," said Woods. "But for the ones that are just like, oh I have an order let me place it, now (it's) two months before (they) can get it on a boat, it's going to have some impact."
Woods hopes companies can endure the short-term pain and learn from it so they have better contingency plans in place in the future.