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Sugar shortage a bitter pill for Lethbridge-area bakeries at Christmastime


While Christmas orders continue to come in at Bootsma Bakery in Lethbridge, staff are feeling a shortage of sugar – an ingredient used in most of the goods they make.

"It's a scary time to be a bakery because we rely on sugar for most of our Christmas baking," said owner Jamie Bootsma.

Rogers Sugar, owned by Lantic Inc., saw 138 workers walk off the job in late September.

The workers are fighting to keep eight-hour shifts that run Monday to Friday.

The B.C. plant is one of only three Rogers Sugar refineries in Canada.

Although Bootsma gets her sugar from the Taber, Alta., plant, she is not immune to the shortage.

"Our supplier actually has to give written permission from his vice-president of his company to release any brown-sugar bags," she said.

"So even if that request is sent in, we're not guaranteed to be getting any.

"There are some alternatives, but they don't taste the same.

"Splenda is also hard to come by. Honey can also be used as a substitute in some things, but it'll affect the end product and at a busy time like Christmas, we don't have the time to be trying different techniques."

The shortage isn't actually of sugar – it's of workers.

The Alberta Sugar Beet Growers (ASBG) had an above-average year.

"This year, we had a record crop," said Jennifer Crowson, executive director of the ASBG.

"We're sitting at about 855,000 tonnes brought into the plant, which is on average for every year. So as far as a sugar beet shortage, there is not a sugar beet shortage."

Crowson says the hot summer, plus irrigation, allowed for the beets to thrive, with an average extractable sugar rate of 17 per cent.

Two hundred farms began digging the crops in September and wrapped up at the beginning of November with all beets delivered to the Taber refinery.

"In past years, an average yield is about 33 tonnes an acre and we were around 35-36 tonnes per acre," Crowson said.

Shelves in Lethbridge grocery stores are either empty or have limits on the number of bags customers are allowed to purchase.

Bootsma is hopeful the sugar rush will end and her bottom line won't suffer too much.

"I'm a little hesitant to be raising costs right now because I know everyone is going through a hard economic time but if it continues and we don't see it come back down, then it will have an impact on the final product," she said. Top Stories

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