by Steve Gorman, Reuters
Protracted labor strife and shipping disruptions at U.S. West Coast ports have hit farmers especially hard, posing a major barrier to perishable goods headed to overseas markets and resulting in losses estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars a week.
Foreign Pacific Rim customers facing chronic delays in shipments of U.S. food and farm products are turning to other countries for produce ranging from citrus and apples to beef and pork, the Washington-based Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC) has reported.
Many frustrated U.S. suppliers are deciding to forgo exports and scrambling instead to find domestic buyers for their produce, driving down prices, said Wendy Fink-Weber, a spokeswoman for the Western Growers trade organization.
Industry experts say the longer term concern is that American export business lost to other countries, and other ports, may not return once the U.S. West Coast crisis is over.
“They're losing their buyers and they're losing their markets,” Fink-Weber said.
Precise figures on the extent of damage are hard to come by. The AgTC has estimated that total U.S. agricultural export losses – for fruits, vegetables and meats shipped by container – were running roughly $400 million a week in December, the latest month for which industry data was available.
Because the dislocation at the ports directly involves containerized cargo only, bulk shipments of grain and soybeans have largely been unaffected, the group said.
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Source: Cattle Trade Center