WEST SACRAMENTO –
Container, after container, after container at the Farmer’s Rice Co-Op overlooking the Port of Sacramento sits not only idle, but full right now. Every single bin on the lot is backed up and waiting to be shipped.
Contract negotiations between west coast dockworkers and shippers have dragged on now into their ninth month, and California agricultural exporters say delays at west coast ports have gotten worse.
“They are sitting, on the average, about three weeks,” said Karen Vellutini Vice President of Devine Intermodal.
Almonds, rise, raisins, and prunes mostly. All with lengthy shelf lives. But just because it won’t perish on the docks, doesn’t mean the sale won’t ultimately perish.
“You still have unhappy customers,” explained Vellutini. “What people don’t realize is there are prunes and raisins and rice grown in other parts of the world, and if our agricultural exporters can’t get their product to market the market will find somewhere else to buy it.”
International Trade Economist, Jock O’Connell agrees. “It effects your reputation as a reliable supplier if you can’t get them to your customers.”
So with the industry teetering on over-sea’s buyers looking elsewhere for reliable product, local workers are seeing a negative effect.
“Driving trucks and working in distribution facilities, their jobs are directly contingent on the effective movement of goods through our sea ports,” said O’Connell.
“You’re not able to service the customer as we’re normally able to do. We’re not able to move the product we normally do. Our drivers aren’t earning the income they normally do,” added Vellutini.
The reality is Devine Intermodal laid off some truck drivers last week because of the port delays. The fear now is the long-term effects it will have.
“Once a buyer, one of our customer’s costumer,” Vellutine explained. “Once they find an alternative source for a dried fruit or nut, or any agricultural commodity out of California, it’s really hard to get them back.”