How America’s Farmers Got Cut Out of the Supply Chain

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22 Apr 2022, 10:36 pm

How America’s Farmers Got Cut Out of the Supply Chain
As shipping companies concentrate on the most lucrative routes from China to California, almond growers are struggling to transport their wares.
Peter S. Goodman
April 20, 2022 ... rmers.html

The exasperation of agricultural exporters amounts to the latest chapter of the Great Supply Chain Disruption, the tumultuous reordering of international trade and transportation amid the worst pandemic in a century. At the center of the story is the shipping container: the steel box that revolutionized commerce, allowing unfathomable quantities of goods to be carried around the planet.

Shipping companies — which last year collectively secured profits reaching $190 billion — harvested especially enormous returns on their routes from Chinese ports to the West Coast of the United States.

Traditionally, carriers unload containers arriving from China at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and then ship empties up to Oakland, where they are reloaded with almonds and other agricultural crops.

But in recent months, the carriers have put growing numbers of empty containers back on ships immediately. The companies can make more money sending the valuable containers directly back to Asia, where they are refilled with goods destined for American consumers.

Almond growers like Phippen have been left with limited options to deliver their wares to customers abroad. Throughout California, more than 1.1 billion pounds of almonds from last year’s harvest are sitting in warehouses, a volume roughly one-third larger than this time last year, according to the Almond Alliance of California, an industry trade group.

“Foreign carriers are being allowed to disrespect us, and we can’t do anything about it,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, the association’s president. “We have no recourse.”

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