Fresh Produce Industry Continues to Struggle with Transportation Issues

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Industry

The fresh produce industry is continuing to struggle with several challenges related to transporting goods. Trade markets for all products have been tumultuous over the past year, with port delays and shortages of trucks and cargo containers. California Fresh Fruit Association President Ian LeMay said the issue is especially troublesome for perishable items like fresh produce.

Produce Industry

“The minute that fruit is cut from a vine or picked from a tree that clock starts. So, with that clock starting, efficiency matters,” LeMay noted. “If we don’t have confidence in that once it gets to the port it’s going to be put on a ship and moved out and that ship is going to follow the manuscript that we thought it was in terms of, it’s going to go from point A to point B, that’s a problem.”

Transportation issues emerged early on during the COVID pandemic and have endured throughout the past year.  Conditions have been slowly improving, with some of the port congestion beginning to clear up. However, obstacles still remain, negatively impacting producers. LeMay explained that it is important for the fresh produce industry to be vocal about transportation challenges and the effect they are having on business.

Over the past few months, federal officials have taken actionable steps in addressing the transportation disruptions. The Federal Maritime Commission is investigating export practices of several ocean carriers operating in U.S. ports. Ag groups have been insistent on immediate action being taken to remedy the situation and get the flow of goods back to acceptable levels.

“It creates a lot of uncertainty when roughly 30 to 40 percent of our crop here in California goes to foreign ports,” said LeMay. “The California brand is a trusted and desirable brand and that has created a great relationship that many California growers have with retailers across the globe. But part of maintaining that relationship is the efficiencies and the dependability of getting that product, a quality product, to those other countries.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West