Port Disputes Continue
West Coast Port contract disputes that began 9 months ago continue as dockworkers work without reaching a contract. Extreme congestion at the ports has caused problems such as unloading ships and stoppages, disrupting import and export shipments for agricultural products amongst other sectors. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) is worried that delays at the ports could eventually lead to gridlock.
At times ships holding perishable produce have been left sitting out on the water while dockworkers demands, including higher pay, are not met. The PMA refused to pay overtime to longshoreman over the President’s day weekend and closed the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports from Thursday February 12th through Monday February 16th. The port of Oakland, the third largest port on the West Coast, has been reported to be unloading only about 75% of what they normally would on a typical day.
The repercussions for the economy could be devastating. California Citrus Mutual is estimating that the port disputes could cost the citrus industry up to $500 million in export loses. California exported over $5 billion in fresh produce and nuts in the last quarter of 2014. Additional costs include the expenses to maintain extended cold storage facilities for apples and the fees imposed on importers due to shipping delays.
During the off season Earl’s Organic brings in fruit such as blueberries, mangos, kiwis and apples from as far away as New Zealand, Chile and Peru. We have felt the effect of these labor disputes as shipments of fruit sit out on the water for as long as 7-10 days after traveling by boat for 2-3 weeks. There have been gaps in supply and some obvious signs of aging from sitting on the water for a long period of time. Growers are reluctant to ship out their product overseas because of its perishable nature. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you up to date.