UNITY – The effects of the ongoing sugar strike at Rogers Sugar in Vancouver are starting to be felt here in Saskatchewan. The Vancouver refinery saw 138 workers walk off the job on Sept. 28, asking for increases to wages and benefits since the company suggested increasing operational hours.
Currently the refinery runs 120 hours a week, Monday to Friday and Rogers Sugar would like to increase to a 24-hour operation, 365 days a year. With the reduced levels of operations, certain items like brown sugar are becoming harder to find.
Jennifer Belcher of Ma & Me Bakery has been able to overcome the brown sugar shortage by making her own.
“With the cost of a bag jumping in price, it is cheaper for me to make my own. All brown sugar is white sugar with a bit of molasses added to it,” said Belcher.
She has noticed some places she purchases her supplies have some limits, but not all.
“When I heard there could be a shortage, I called my mom and asked her to pick up like 10 bags for me. That should carry me through to hopefully February,” Belcher added.
At-home baker Chelsea Fawell, has also been wise in keeping stockpiles of sugar, picking up what she needs every so often.
“I always keep lots of sugar on hand and with some stores limiting buyers, I try to keep enough on hand just in case,” said Fawell. She adds that she has noticed the icing sugar and brown sugars are the hardest to find and is thankful she has plenty in her stocks.
The two grocery stores are also finding it difficult to keep the sweet stuff on the shelves. At the time of writing this article, AG Foods Unity had only a handful of brown sugar and a dozen icing sugar packages left on the shelf. One staff member said between the two suppliers they deal with they were hoping to have some white sugar on the shelf soon.
Delta Co-op has noticed the scarcity of specialty and brown sugars. Unity food store manager Steven Schwartz commented in a phone interview that fine, granulated and icing sugar is still available at his location, however, there are no limits per customer at this time.
“Because we are still able to keep sugar on the shelves, we feel at this point we don’t need to put limits on the sugar products,” said Schwartz.
An alternative source of sweetness that could become beneficial is honey. Karen Pedersen of Pedersen Apiaries that there has not been an increase in honey sales directly at the farm itself, but she is not sure about how sales are in stores.
“The bulk price of honey from the apiaries has gone down prior to the strike, but you won’t see that on store shelves. Retailers use that to increase profits rather than lowering the price,” adds Pedersen
Pedersen does give some warning when buying honey in the stores for anyone who is looking to make the switch.
“Honey is one of the top five foods in the world that has fraud associated with it. When a container says Canada No.1, just means it meets the Canadian grade. You have to turn the container around to see where the honey originated, as that can give you a hint towards whether it is pure or not,” says Pedersen.
She also added that honey is much sweeter than regular granulated sugar, as well as burns more easily.
“Since honey retains more moisture than sugar and is naturally acidic, some adjustments to recipes will have to be made. Also make sure to reduce the baking temperature by 25 F.
Below is a chart that can help bakers if they decide to substitute honey for sugar.
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