I have talked about documenting verbal agreements in past blogs, but I have recently had three different disputed situations arise that could have easily been averted if the shippers had confirmed with their buyers by email their conversations about how the distressed loads of produce were being resolved. Although the shippers in each case did in fact verbally settle each of these three shipments of produce with their respective customers, unfortunately they failed to confirm their verbal agreement by an email.

As a shipper with a problem load of produce at destination, you should never depend on your customer (buyer) informing you that he or she has already obtained an opinion from the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) regional office that it was a shipper problem.  Many times buyers will contact the PACA for advice and an opinion on a situation; however, sometimes they may inadvertently fail to give all the pertinent facts to the PACA when seeking an informal real time opinion.

The best time to commence a potential claim is when you first become aware of a problem with a shipment. Never put a problem load on the back burner, keep it front and center at all times. Problem files unfortunately do not go away by themselves, they can become more complicated and possibly compromised if they are not addressed and acted upon immediately.  It could be either a potential truck claim or dispute with a customer, whichever the case, the situation needs to be addressed immediately.

I suggest one simple rule when you have produce inspected in Canada and that is the inspection MUST be a government sponsored inspection known as a CFIA inspection. The Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) will not recognize private inspections when adjudicating DRC complaints unless both seller and buyer have agreed that a private inspection will be acceptable. I cannot recall a situation where I would not insist that a shipper always insist on a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspection when determining quality and condition of your product.

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