SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — One of California’s cash crops is stuck in storage, and it’s a major problem for local almond farmers, growers and the economy in the region.
Rows and rows of boxes with millions of California almonds are sitting in warehouses in Manteca, with nowhere to go.
“It’s just never been a problem in 40 years,” David Phippen said.
Now, the people who lead the way to grow, de-shell and transport California’s largest agriculture export are calling for immediate action.
David Phippen runs Travaille & Phippen with his brother Scott. Their family has been in the California almond industry since 1921.
He said, before the pandemic, shipping containers full of goods from China arrived at the Port of Los Angeles. Those containers, once emptied, would then be transported to the Oakland Port where almond distributers would load them up and send them off.
“Because of the urgent nature of the supply shortage, foreign countries want those containers back immediately, and they are skipping the Oakland port. It’s leaving almond distributors to try to find new, and most times, more costly ways to get the almonds around the world,” David Phippen said.
He said some California almond growers may lose their businesses if something doesn’t give soon.
“Somebody has to bring pressure to bear on the shipping companies to say, ‘Look, we’re allowing you to bring your offshore products to our ports here on the West Coast. Now, we’re asking for a reciprocal opportunity to move our products from the West Coast back out to other offshore markets, how that leverage works,” David Phippen said.
Now, 20,000 tons of almonds are stocked up in Manteca and the Phippens are having to expand.
With warehouses full and the next harvest coming in September, David Phippen had to order 3,000 crates for more storage. Each crate holds up to 2,300 pounds of almonds.
But David Phippen said it’s not the distributors who are being hit hardest by the problem.
“So what you’re seeing here is just a lot of heartbreak for not only us the packers but for the growers. This is a lot of heartache because if it would have shipped, it would have been presented to a buyer. That buyer would have wired that payment to us, and we would have taken that payment and dispersed it out to the growers that were responsible for that load. Slowly but surely, we’re getting less money to the growers at a time when the growers need that money more than ever,” David Phippen said.
Growers, packers and distributors are now hoping every day those essential shipping containers will become available so Californians can shell out their biggest agricultural export.