Action is being taken that should help to remedy some of the agricultural export issues. As AgNet West previously reported, a shortage of shipping containers is creating turmoil for exporters. At the behest of a broad array of industry organizations, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) will be conducting an investigation. The expected increase in trade volume for the holidays is being compounded by the already heightened pressure put on trade due to the pandemic. Congestion on the ports is also being exacerbated by COVID-19 safety protocols slowing some things down.
“From our understanding, there is just frankly a perfect storm of conditions right now that are making for a very challenging export environment,” said Tracey Chow, Federal Government Affairs Specialist for Western Growers. “Certain cargo is getting prioritized over others just because, overall, there is a shortage of equipment, of ships, of containers, of everything.”
The issue of exporting challenges for American producers has been raised with state and federal lawmakers. Western Growers was among the many signatories of a letter sent to FMC, calling for some kind of corrective action to be taken. FMC has oversight authority over ports and carriers for these types of issues. “In the interim, we’ve asked for some relief from the excessive detention and demurrage fees because again, all this congestion can’t be one person’s fault,” Chow noted.
It will take some time to fully address the current agricultural export issues. Chow explained there is not a silver bullet fix for the series of issues that created the current export environment. The best short-term course of action for exporters is to plan as far in advance as possible. “Maintain frequent communication if you’re working with third parties or with carriers or shippers, and really closely looking at the contracts. With things like fees and how to deal with delays, a lot of that can or should be covered in contracts,” said Chow.