Delays at port come as a blow to US importers, exporters

Delays at port come as a blow to US importers, exporters

Delays at some of the busiest port complexes in the US are seriously delaying food shipments, according to food industry organisations.

All food exports and imports have been delayed by Christmas and New Year holiday shipping backlogs and a labour dispute at the major west coast ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

Peter Friedman, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, cited "havoc" wreaked on exporters of potatoes, rice, beef, pork, poultry and dairy. Ken Gilliland, the director of international trade and transportation at the Western Growers Association, cited a "major financial impact" on US producers of fruit, vegetables, nuts and grapes.

"Some shippers have backed away from foreign markets, [international] buyers are very leery of placing an order not knowing if it will make it," Gilliland said.

Art Wong, spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, said "everything" is affected, but that the festive season backlog has lessened. Imports hit include fruit, seafood, rice and alcohol.

International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) spokesman Craig Merrillees called the situation a "mess" partly caused by a port chassis supply systems moving containers around the ports inability to manage supply surges. There are also shortages in lorry labour and rail delays.

Negotiations between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association are still ongoing, Merrillees added.