On April 25, Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia joined the heads of six agriculture associations in urging federal officials to bring ocean shipping carriers and the industry together to resolve the lack of service at Port of Oakland. In a letter addressed to United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, WG and its allies urged that such discussions must be had to secure the necessary ship calls, shipping containers, and cargo receiving windows for agriculture to move product.
The letter, which can be read in its entirety here, also details the devasting losses farmers have faced, and stand to further incur, due to the ongoing West Coast port crisis.
A TWO-YEAR CRISIS
Since Fall 2020, U.S. agricultural exporters have faced extreme challenges getting their products onto ships and out to foreign buyers, including record-breaking congestion and delays at ports, shipping lines’ persistent failure to provide accurate notice of arrival/departure and cargo loading times, excessive financial penalties and other fees, as well as skyrocketing freight rate costs.
The Port of Oakland is consequential for Asia-bound farm products, particularly tree nuts and vegetables. More than 4.2 million metric tons of agricultural export cargo moved through its gates prior to the pandemic. However, major ocean carriers have increasingly pulled service from Oakland to redirect more ships to other ports, leaving our industry with few options.
Unfortunately, this situation remains fluid with no clear end in sight; based on current projections, we may not see such port challenges ease until late 2023, all but guaranteeing tough months ahead for our export-sensitive crops.
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