McFARLAND, Calif. (KGET) – August is when nut growers export their products worldwide, but logistical issues at ports are causing major delays with last year’s product.
Growers now race against the clock as cash flow is beginning to slow and they find themselves stuck with a surplus of almonds that has already been sold but not paid for.
“It is this amazing, intimate community with an absolute global footprint,” said Aubrey Bettencourt who spearheads advocacy for the 7,600, mostly family-owned almond farms in California. “They produce a stable, plant-based protein that quite honestly the world wants more of.”
The world goes nuts for nuts grown in Kern County, close to 80 percent of the world’s nuts come from Kern. Over at Famoso Nut Company in McFarland, almonds they produce would head as far as the Middle East and Europe, but they’re now getting their slower than usual or not at all.
“Every week there were canceled bookings,” said Chad DeRose, CEO of Famoso Nut Co. “You had a booking on one vessel, and it would get moved to a later date or canceled.”
DeRose feels the pinch while figuring out ways to export sold products patiently sitting in their large warehouse.
With no American shipping companies in existence, why is one of the largest economic superpowers having a hard time finding boats to export American products?
“Boats coming in from Asia are taking empties and going right back because empty containers are really valuable for the number of imported products,” Bettencourt said. “It’s causing a major cash flow crisis and it’s causing a significant crisis in the trade leverage of the American farmer.”
The Port of Los Angeles is about 160 miles south of McFarland, DeRose has now shifted to storing products closer to the port since shipping companies have often reduced the allotted time to get the product onboard.
Getting product aboard a vessel has been easier in the Port of Los Angles, a blessing as DeRose prefers to ship out of Los Angeles, but for shipments headed to Europe or the Middle East, DeRose said he’s worked with shipping companies that require export thru an East Coast port. Getting the product to the east coast requires a trip aboard the train, only to run into similar issues.
“You’re not getting paid until the product gets to its destination,” said DeRose.
This now pushes growers to mix or ‘carry in’ last season’s product while also taking a financial hit coupled with the possibility of losing future international consumption.
“This past season the industry carried in about 600-million pounds this season it looks like it’s in the neighborhood of 900-million pounds,” said DeRose. “Not being able to get the product to the customer, you do have some lost consumption.”
The ongoing battle is going into its third year, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better, and no help in sight.
“You would think the supply chain would catch up to that demand,” said Bettencourt. “You would think we would modernize our infrastructure but instead it hasn’t.”