Work slowdowns at West Coast ports from Long Beach, Calif. to Tacoma, Wash. are hampering all sorts of trade, including shipments of agricultural products like almonds and walnuts ahead of the Chinese New Year.
Fresh fruit from the Pacific Northwest is also heavily impacted by the work slowdown.
While overseas demand for products like almonds and walnuts continues to be good, getting those commodities out is not.
“For us alone we’ve had 70 to 80 containers that should have been shipped last year but were rolled into this year because of the slowdown,” said Martin Pohl, owner of Hughson Nut, Inc. in Hughson, Calif.
While domestic shipments of almonds are down less than 1 percent between Aug. 1 and the end of the year when compared to the previous year, exports are down over 16 percent. Industry officials say the dockworker slowdown is largely responsible for the lower export numbers, which has shipping containers stacked up and down the West Coast.
According to the Almond Board of California, the California almond industry shipped 148 million pounds of almonds in December. This is off 6 percent from Dec. 2013 shipments.
Mark Jansen, chief executive officer of Blue Diamond Growers in Sacramento said the foundation for a strong December was steady under a recovering Chinese demand and good domestic sales.
California’s 2014 almond crop still projects to finish between 1.825 and 1.840 billion pounds. With receipts already at 1.805 billion this will be the fastest California has harvested and received a crop.
After the pricing peak of early October, there has been price stability which builds market confidence and demand, according to Jansen.
Even with continued West Coast port slowdowns, Jansen projects strong January shipments as the uncertainty of the upcoming bloom drives prices higher from late December through early February.
While California fresh fruit is largely unaffected by the current slowdown because of harvest schedules and shipping dates, Barry Bedwell, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association said if these slowdowns continue, California produce will be significantly impacted.
The slowdown is also impacting imports to West Coast ports.