09 November 2014

[091114.EN.SEA] US Farmers Howl as Potatoes, Fruit Risk Rotting in Dock Dispute

AMERICAN perishable food exporters are becoming frantic with congestion in LA and Long Beach ports and deliberate go-slows by dockers in Seattle and Tacoma."As it stands right now, I have potatoes I am shipping to many countries - nearly 50 containers just this week alone," said the exporter, whose statement was supplied by Peter Friedmann of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition. 

"So far, I have shipped about six containers and may not have any more than three to five more containers shipped this week. If this continues, my buyers would be forced to buy from another country because they would need stable supply," he said.

Meanwhile, down south two bulk carriers joined the queue of ships waiting to berth in Los Angeles or Long Beach as congestion mounted, reports Lloyd's List.A total of 14 ships were at anchor outside the harbour on afternoon after the number grew by two during the day. Seventy ships are within the precincts of the San Pedro Bay ports, but only 49 are at berth and another 21 anchored.

Talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the employers bargaining unit, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), appear deadlocked over waterfront automation.Tacoma port reported terminal operators sending dockers home halfway through shifts because their work was too slow, reports American Shipper.

The window for effective strike action is closing fast because the peak season ends in a few weeks. When it does, a strike will have much less impact.Another potato farmer said: "This is turning into a disaster. We have recently secured new export business in the millions of pounds in Australia and Korea. Additional business gains in Philippines and China are all now at risk."

Shipping in excess of 17,000 FCLs off the west coast annually," the farmer continued, "we are not only risking trade with our foreign partners, but forcing the shutdown of production facilities in the PNW [Pacific North West] as we have nowhere to go with our finished goods." Said a Washington state fruit farmer: "We have been holding US$66,668 of product that is supposed to ship in two containers on a carrier and $82,188.50 of product for three containers on another carrier all week. 

"These products all need to make the voyage to South American markets in time for their holidays. If they do not ship, we will lose the sales entirely, as my customers cannot sell what they do not have, and no one gets a second swing at fresh produce, unlike durable goods." he said.

Source : SN-TR, 07.11.14.

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