State farm exports hampered by cargo-container shortage

The Associated Press

SEATTLE — Farm exporters in Washington state have been left with stockpiles of product and idle trucks as the pandemic has created a shortage of cargo containers.

Dave Martin, export sales manager for Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, one of the state’s biggest tree-fruit exporters, said the company would ship up to 15 containers of fruit a week to Taiwan before the pandemic. “This week, we will not have a ship,” he said.

The shortage has prompted foreign customers of Stemilt to look to competitors in countries such as Chile, where the apple harvest just started.

“Those sales are lost,” Martin said, commenting on the numerous shipments forgone since November.

The shortage of cargo space is the latest problem the pandemic has caused the global trade system. It has brought entire sectors to a virtual standstill, The Seattle Times reported Tuesday.

Americans’ spending with online retailers, such as Amazon, since the pandemic began last March, has resulted in a surge of imports from Asia. The increase has overwhelmed some West Coast ports, where ships often sit for days to be unloaded, delaying cargo pickups and deliveries at other ports, including Seattle and Tacoma.

“We are now experiencing unprecedented eastbound cargo volumes coming out of Asia to the U.S., and it’s creating huge disruptions within the supply chain,” said John Wolfe, chief executive officer of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which manages marine cargo operations in the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

Shipping companies are able to make more money by quickly sending empty containers from the U.S. to Asia to accommodate the surge in imports, rather than refill them with American farm products. A container of Chinese electronics, apparel and other exports is worth more than one filled with American farm products, said Peter Friedmann with the Agriculture Transportation Coalition in Washington, D.C.

Data from the Northwest Seaport Alliance show 37 percent of containers exported from Seattle and Tacoma in January 2020 were empty compared to this year when more than half were shipped empty. Wolfe explained that many businesses are in a rush to get their vessels and container equipment back to Asia to capitalize on the high-value shipments from Asia to the U.S.

Trade economists and policymakers expect the capacity shortages to decline as consumers return to normal purchasing patterns. But many exporters are concerned they permanently lost some market share.

“My biggest worry is that suddenly what seemed like a blip in exports and a temporary problem becomes, well, now China is going elsewhere for their apples and their cherries and their hay,” Democratic state Rep. Kim Schrier said.

Schrier said she wants the government to pressure shipping companies to make more room for American exports on westbound ships by minimizing the number of empty containers on their way back to Asia.

The Federal Maritime Commission is already exploring whether shipping companies’ practices violate U.S. shipping law, Schrier said. Two of the ports’ biggest carriers — MSC and Maersk — did not respond to requests for comment.

More in Business

Natalie Russell
Jefferson Healthcare hires new physician assistant

Jefferson Healthcare has hired Natalie Russell, a certified physician… Continue reading

Jefferson Healthcare recognized by American Heart Association

Jefferson Healthcare has been recognized by the American Heart… Continue reading

Jefferson Healthcare earns accreditation for hospice and palliative care

Jefferson Healthcare recently earned accreditation for Hospice and Palliative… Continue reading

Olympic Medical Center recently honored its laundry room staff. From left are Kathy Richison, Sena Bradow, Minda Dugan, Evelia Jacoba-Sanchez, Blanca DeLeon, Director of Support Services Julie Black, Sonye Woolsey and Human Resource Officer Jennifer Burkhardt.
Olympic Medical Center honors laundry staff

Olympic Medical Center recognized eight members of its laundry… Continue reading

LuAnne Hinkle, left, of the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society, receives a check from Ginger Rushton of the home health department at Jim’s Pharmacy in Port Angeles. Staff and customers at the pharmacy raised more than $950 to support the humane society, the July recipient of Jim’s Cares Monthly Charity. The funds are raised through monetary donations, used book sales, donated employee casual days and a percentage of over-the-counter sales.
Charity of the month

LuAnne Hinkle, left, of the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society, receives a check… Continue reading

Todd Ortloff Show guests this week

Here is this week’s schedule for the 1 p.m.… Continue reading

EYE ON BUSINESS: This week’s meetings

Virtual meetings Tuesdays via Zoom. This… Continue reading


Smith hired (Mug) 

PORT TOWNSEND — Andrea Smith has been hired by Jefferson Healthcare as the clinical manager for its home health team. 

Smith, a military veteran, has a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Aspen University in Denver. 

Smith will supervise the nurses, therapists, certified nursing assistants and medical social workers that deliver skilled intermittent care in private residences, adult family homes or assisted living facilities.
Olympic Medical Physicians adds two to women’s health team

Olympic Medical Center Physicians has hired two new clinicians… Continue reading

Most Read