Yuma County, Arizona, Becomes Fertile Ground for Covid-19

YUMA, Ariz. — The Rev. Emilio Chapa was delivering a homily on a recent Sunday when he paused to lament a sight that had shaken him as he entered the sacristy before Mass.

a large green field with trees in the background: Each winter, Yuma County’s population swells by 100,000 people, to more than 300,000, as field workers descend on the farms and snowbirds from the Midwest pull into R.V. parks.
© Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times Each winter, Yuma County’s population swells by 100,000 people, to more than 300,000, as field workers descend on the farms and snowbirds from the Midwest pull into R.V. parks.

The board where his staff posted requests for funeral services was covered with names. “I had never seen it so full before,” he told his parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in central Yuma.

Yuma County, which produces the lettuce, broccoli and other leafy greens that Americans consume during the cold months, is known as “America’s salad bowl.” Now it has become a winter hothouse for Covid-19.

a glass door: “It’s a wave of critically ill people that isn’t breaking,” said Cleavon Gilman, an emergency medicine doctor at Yuma Regional Medical Center.
© Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times “It’s a wave of critically ill people that isn’t breaking,” said Cleavon Gilman, an emergency medicine doctor at Yuma Regional Medical Center.

Over the course of the pandemic, the Yuma area has identified coronavirus cases at a higher rate than any other U.S. region. One out of every six residents has come down with the virus.

Each winter, the county’s population swells by 100,000 people, to more than 300,000, as field workers descend on the farms and snowbirds from the Midwest pull into R.V. parks. This seasonal ritual brings jobs, local spending and high tax revenue. But this year, the influx has turned deadly.

Father Chapa’s parish is weathering the full spectrum of the pandemic’s surge. In Spanish and English, he ministers to Mexican-American families who have been rooted here for generations as well as the seasonal residents, all of them afflicted. The church is handling three times the number of funerals it usually does.

“Some families have buried multiple relatives,” Father Chapa said. “It’s a dire situation.”

While coronavirus cases are starting to flatten across the country, the virus is still raging in many border communities. Three of the six metro areas with the highest rates of known cases since the outbreak began are small cities straddling Mexico: Yuma; Eagle Pass, Texas; and El Centro, Calif. And Laredo, Texas, is adding cases at a per capita rate more than three times what is being seen in hard-hit Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Seasonal migration, the daily flow of people back and forth and lax measures to contain the virus’s spread have created a combustible constellation. Arizona has seen among the highest increases in newly reported deaths of any state over the past two weeks — and it is not clear when this troubling trend will abate.

a close up of a door: “We’d seen how bad it got in New York, Seattle and bigger places,” Rick Madrid said. “We were thinking it’s not going to be a big deal in Yuma.”
© Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times “We’d seen how bad it got in New York, Seattle and bigger places,” Rick Madrid said. “We were thinking it’s not going to be a big deal in Yuma.”

Halfway between San Diego and Phoenix, but geographically isolated from both, Yuma has only one hospital. Understaffed and overwhelmed with cases, it has been airlifting critically ill patients to other cities. And the fallout from Christmas and New Year festivities is not over.

a large pool of water: Country Roads RV Village, an expansive retirement resort in Yuma.
© Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times Country Roads RV Village, an expansive retirement resort in Yuma.

“It’s a wave of critically ill people that isn’t breaking,” Cleavon Gilman, an emergency medicine doctor at Yuma Regional Medical Center, said after a recent 12-hour shift.

There are farmhands, loath to miss work, who waited too long to seek medical attention. There are retirees who stubbornly believed that they could power through Covid-19, just as they did when stricken with a flu, or who refused to wear masks. There are members of families who live in tight quarters or who could not resist gathering to celebrate the holidays.

a man standing in front of a building: Kristi and Timothy Getz have been coming for more than a decade to Country Roads RV Village. The governor issued a stay-at-home order in March. “Half the park was in denial,” recalled Mr. Getz, who was among those “fighting for the science.”
© Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times Kristi and Timothy Getz have been coming for more than a decade to Country Roads RV Village. The governor issued a stay-at-home order in March. “Half the park was in denial,” recalled Mr. Getz, who was among those “fighting for the science.”

Dr. Gilman blames the governor, Doug Ducey, for not enacting stringent measures. “Everything is open: restaurants, gyms, barbershops,” he said. “People are needlessly dying because there is no statewide mandate to prevent it.”

As the virus continues its rampage, the county has failed to secure an adequate supply of vaccines.

After inviting those 75 and older, teachers and law enforcement to schedule appointments recently, the health department announced that it had run out of vaccines, in part because state officials appeared not to take into account the region’s winter population bulge when they allocated doses.

“There was no plan to get the vaccine to the people who need it,” said Amanda Aguirre, president of the Center for Border Health, a network of nonprofit clinics. “We don’t have time to wait. It needs to be now.”

A special risk for farmworkers

Between October and March each year, as many as 40,000 “lechugeros,” or lettuce people, toil in Yuma, whose mild temperatures and Colorado River-irrigated land make it the ideal spot to grow leafy vegetables.

Thousands commute daily from Mexico to the verdant fields that stretch into the distance, where the rust-colored Gila Mountains glisten. Guest workers stay in motels in town.

Before dawn on a recent morning, Mexican workers trickled through the port of entry and boarded dozens of rickety white buses that idled nearby. Plastic sheets hung between rows; only one rider was allowed per bench. “If anyone has a temperature, I send them back,” said Gabriel Talamantes, one of the foremen.

A couple mornings later, health workers offered a free saliva test to laborers as they emerged on U.S. soil. “It’s for your good and the good of your family,” a loudspeaker blared in Spanish.

“We noticed younger people avoided testing,” said Flavio Marsiglia, director of the Global Center for Applied Health Research at Arizona State University. “We believe many of those young people are positive with no symptoms and spreading the virus.”

“They ride those buses that are very crowded, work very close to each other in the field, share food,” he added. “It’s very easy to spread the virus in those conditions.”

Arizona’s attempts to control the virus

Yuma reported its first presumptive case of the coronavirus on March 20, the same day that the governor initially closed bars, movie theaters and gyms, and limited restaurants to takeout and drive-through service.

“We’d seen how bad it got in New York, Seattle and bigger places. We were thinking it’s not going to be a big deal in Yuma,” said Rick Madrid, 41, manager for a wholesale food distributor who can count 11 people in his circle of family and friends who have contracted the virus.

The first death in the county occurred in late April.

In mid-May, Mr. Ducey lifted stay-at-home orders, making Arizona among the first states to reopen after a spring lockdown. As temperatures soared past 100 degrees, forcing people indoors, the caseload resumed its ascent.

On June 17, the county board of supervisors issued a mask mandate. It required all establishments to post a sign requiring face coverings and stipulated that violators would be charged with a misdemeanor. But Sheriff Leon Wilmot announced that he lacked resources to enforce the rule.

A politically charged debate raged over the utility of masks and whether the virus posed a real threat. On June 26, a friend of Mr. Madrid’s who had been an outspoken anti-masker posted a picture of NyQuil on his Facebook page with the caption, “This is all I need to fight the bug.”

He died on July 11. Another friend died days later. “By July, I was like, I can’t believe this,” Mr. Madrid said.

The virus would soon creep up on his own family.

His father, Richard, 77, a chiropractor, and his mother, Carole, 75, the office manager, had been traveling back and forth to their clinic on the Mexican side of the border each day. Many of his loyal clients, most of them snowbirds, were in Yuma, counting on him to soothe their back, shoulder and hip pains.

In mid-November, against their son’s wishes, the couple visited a restaurant that had hired Rick to roast a pig on the back patio. “He was old and stubborn, and he exhibited machismo. That’s the culture,” he said of his father, a Mexican-American and strong supporter of former President Donald J. Trump. “He wasn’t going to let this bug dominate him.”

Two days later, the couple began exhibiting flulike symptoms that turned out to be Covid-19.

The same week, Mr. Madrid’s two siblings and their spouses tested positive for the virus.

On Nov. 29, his father died. Five days later, Mr. Madrid gave in to the urge to visit his mother, ailing and grieving, at the sage-green ranch-style house where he had been raised.

Soon Mr. Madrid could not smell or taste, not even his son’s steak with jalapeños. He had the coronavirus. A week later, his wife also tested positive.

“As proud as I am of my community for being tough in pulling through, I am also disappointed that people didn’t take it more seriously,” he said.

High season brings new dangers

In sun-drenched R.V. parks, septuagenarians in shorts gather with fellow snowbirds for cocktails, sports and sunning under cloudless blue skies in the high season.

Kristi and Timothy Getz have been coming for more than a decade to Country Roads RV Village, an expansive retirement resort crisscrossed by streets with names like Party Time and Good Time.

“This place is paradise,” said Ms. Getz, who lives with her husband in a cheerful manufactured home on Off We Go Street. “My best friends are here.”

Ms. Getz, a retired manager of a truck dealership in San Jose, Calif., does not miss a dance party and loves the shows in the ballroom. Mr. Getz, a former military driver, plays the electric piano in jam sessions with his buddies.

But the pandemic has undermined community harmony — and spoiled the fun.

Just a couple of days after some 200 residents celebrated the groundbreaking for the ballroom expansion with a “burger bash” in March, the governor issued a stay-at-home order.

“We went from hugging and congratulations and excitement to ‘What do you mean there’s a lock on the pickleball court and I can’t go in the swimming pool or in the exercise room?’” recalled Pat Tuckwell, a retired health care executive from Madison, Wis., who is president of the board of directors.

Every activity, from card clubs to woodcarving and quilting, was halted.

On the Facebook page Country Roads Rants and Rages, arguments broke out between residents who believed that the virus was a hoax and those who did not. “Half the park was in denial,” said Mr. Getz, who was among those “fighting for the science.”

By the time restrictions were lifted in mid-May, most of the snowbirds had returned to their hometowns for the summer.

Back in October, they found recreational facilities reopened, with certain rules. The number of people allowed in the pools and the fitness center was limited. Card clubs remained banned.

That month, the first three cases of the virus were reported to the board. In November, the community had its first fatality.

A sign went up outside the gym in early January. The facility was closed for deep sanitizing after someone refused to wear a mask.

“Hats off to the guy that would not wear his compliance mask,” declared one resident on Facebook.

As of Jan. 8, there have been 55 known cases and three deaths in the community, but Ms. Tuckwell said the actual tally was quite likely higher, given that cases are self-reported.

Ms. Getz was horrified when she recently noticed eight people playing cards inside a nearby home, none wearing masks. Her husband did not let her confront them.

“I just don’t understand it when Yuma is such a hot spot,” she said.

At St. Francis of Assisi, worshipers pray, but prayers have not kept the virus at bay.

Armida Lopez, one of the parishioners, said she had lost count of the members of her family who have been stricken.

“People in my family are dying every day, it seems. First cousin, second cousin, uncle, brother-in-law,” she said, her voice trailing. “Right now, it’s like, who is going to die next?”

By The New York Times

Plans For Tighter Covid Restrictions In Hong Kong Threaten Airfreight Xref To KLM

One of the most important global airfreight gateways is facing the spectre of tighter measures that could have a profound impact on cargo capacity.

According to a report in the South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong government is looking to implement measures next week that include a mandatory 14-day quarantine for airline crews.

This would apply to those on passenger and freighter aircraft returning to the territory after an international layover – so far they have been exempt from quarantine requirements.

In Hong Kong’s fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, the number of new cases has risen lately, with 70 registered on Thursday alone. Seven were of foreign origin.

Last summer, FedEx’s pilot union asked management to suspend Hong Kong operations, citing “unacceptable conditions” for pilots in quarantine and those who tested positive and were allocated to public hospitals.

Around the same time, the union representing UPS flight crews called for pilots to have the right to decline missions to Hong Kong, which was then experiencing its third wave of Covid-19 infections. Both companies declined those requests.

The impact of the new quarantine mandate for returning flight crews would hit Cathay Pacific the hardest, with serious repercussions for its longhaul network.

Tom Owen, director of cargo, said: “We are regularly in discussion with the government on a range of quarantine-related issues, given they are amended and updated regularly. At this point, we have nothing to share regarding any future changes, which I see are being speculated in the media. Our freighters continue to operate as scheduled and we are moving into the pre-CNY [Chinese New Year] rush.”

One source at a freighter airline noted this morning that, while the airfreight market was “extremely busy in all directions”, the weakest sector was Hong Kong-Europe.

A disruption of Cathay’s operations would also be a serious headache for forwarders and shippers.

Neel Shal, executive vice-president and global head of airfreight at Flexport, said: “This will definitely be a challenge for the market. Cathay is the major player in the South China market. If its schedule is disrupted it will certainly exacerbate an already tight capacity situation and one could expect rates to spike as a result.

“Right now we don’t have any visibility on how long this policy might remain in place, so we can’t comment on the market impact beyond the next few weeks.”

However, he does not envisage major problems for Flexport in the event of a quarantine mandate.

“We’ve had a diversified charter and BSA strategy in place for months, so while the potential quarantine that will impact Cathay and its ability to move longhaul cargo will be a logistical headache, a nominal amount of Flexport cargo could be impacted. We carry the bulk of our cargo from South China on our own freighters,” he said.

Meanwhile, the prospect of Covid-19 measures bringing new disruption to the air cargo industry is not confined to Asia. As The Loadstar reports today, Air France KLM may suspend all longhaul flights after the Dutch government yesterday agreed new measures aimed at containing the spread of the pandemic.

By The LoadStar

Study Puts 2020 Produce Crop Loss From Pandemic Up To $48 million

Research links some of the losses that fruit and vegetable growers suffered because of COVID-19 pandemic to labor shortages caused by the number of infections among farmworkers.

“The Effects of COVID-19 on Fruit and Vegetable Production,” by Stephen Devadoss, the Emabeth Thompson Endowed Professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources at Texas Tech, and William Ridley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found 2020 U.S. crop losses were estimated in a range from $3.8 million-$16 million for lettuce, $1.3 million-$5 million in apples and $1.1 million-$4 million in grapes, according to the report. Total fruit and vegetable crop losses tied to labor shortages were estimated to range from $12 million in a conservative economic model to as much as $48 million in the extreme scenario.

Devadoss said Jan. 19 that several studies have been done about the effects of the pandemic on meatpacking facilities and output but very few people have considered the effect of the virus on fruit and vegetable production.

Researchers used county‐ and commodity‐level data to estimate the output elasticity of labor demand for several major labor‐intensive fruits and vegetables, according to the report. 

The report was submitted for publication in July and first published online in October.

“Based on these estimates and current active COVID‐19 infection rates by county, we then forecast the likely production losses across commodities and geographical regions from shocks to the farm labor supply under conservative and extreme scenarios,” researchers said.

Study focus

Outbreaks are thought to be accelerated by the close quarters in which workers live and work, the report said. 

Among the study findings is that the disruptive effect of the virus on farmworkers resulted in millions of dollars in lost fresh produce production, with the heaviest toll concentrated in large fruit‐ and vegetable‐producing states such as California, Arizona and Washington.

The 2020 losses linked to labor shortages in the fruit and vegetable sector were not catastrophic, researchers said, but they were significant.

By The Packer

Inside California’s Colossal Container-ship Traffic Jam

Over 30 container ships are anchored in San Pedro Bay off Los Angeles and Long Beach

In the movie “Falling Down,” the character played by Michael Douglas is stranded in a Los Angeles traffic jam. He abandons his car, starts walking with briefcase in hand and ultimately has a mental breakdown. Cargo shippers trying to get their containers through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach can relate.

The pileup of ships offshore in San Pedro Bay and congestion onshore at the terminals have reached epic proportions.

And the situation could become even more maddening in the weeks ahead.

32 container ships at anchor

American Shipper interviewed Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, to get the latest on ships in San Pedro Bay.

He reported that as of midday Wednesday, 91 ships were in port: 46 at berth and 45 at anchor. Of those, there were 56 container ships: 24 at berth and 32 at anchor. Between Wednesday and Saturday, 19 more container ships will arrive, with the same number due to depart.

Container ship locations, Jan. 13 (Map: MarineTraffic)

There were a few more container ships at anchor on Friday —37 in total. Yet Louttit said “there has been no significant change between the first of January and today.”

Louttit confirmed that ships have effectively filled all of the usable anchorages off Los Angeles and Long Beach. Ships have also taken six of the 10 contingency anchorages off Huntington, the next town south.

If all the anchorages and contingency anchorages fill up, ships will be placed in so-called “drift boxes” in deeper water. These are actually circles not boxes. Unlike ships at anchorages in shallower water, ships in drift boxes would not anchor, they’d drift. “When you drift out of the circle, which has a radius of 2 miles, you start your engine and go back to the middle of the circle,” explained Louttit.

Historical perspective on traffic jam

Anchored container ships stretch off into the distance (Photo: Kip Louttit)

Given the drift-box option, container ships are not about to hit any kind of maximum capacity offshore of California. Nor is there a higher safety risk. “There are a lot of ships, but they’re all very carefully watched and managed,” affirmed Louttit.

The significance of so many anchored ships is what they reveal about the extent of the logistics logjam on shore.

The most recent comparable anchorage level occurred during the labor dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and their employers in 2014-15.

“On March 14, 2015, there were 28 container ships at anchor. We’ve blown through that record,” said Louttit. The all-time record for ships at anchorage off California occurred in 2004 during a rail staffing shortage.

“Normally, if you want a baseline, there’d be a dozen and rarely are they container ships,” he said.

Signal still flashing red

The Marine Exchange does not look past the coming four days’ arrivals. But there are other ways to see what’s headed this way across the Pacific.

It takes two to three weeks for containers to cross the ocean from China to California. The Port of Los Angeles developed The Signal, a daily digital tool powered by Port Optimizer, to indicate what’s en route. The system uses manifest data from nine of the top 10 carriers calling in Los Angeles.

The Signal data updated on Wednesday showed no letup in sight. Imports are expected to rise from 143,776 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) this week to 157,763 TEUs next week to 182,953 TEUs the week of Jan. 24-30.

(Chart: The Port of Los Angeles Signal, Jan. 13)

Importantly, the data does not solely include TEUs arriving in a particular week. It also includes TEUs arriving in prior weeks that the port expects to handle in the stated week.

Consequently, the data provides an indirect indicator of how much cargo is getting delayed. For example, on Monday, Jan. 4, The Signal indicated the port would handle 165,000 TEUs that week. But by Friday, Jan. 8, the assessment for that same week had plunged to 99,785 TEUs — implying that over 65,000 TEUs were pushed to the following week (i.e., this week). This pattern also suggests that the forecast for 182,953 TEUs the week of Jan. 24-30 will ultimately be revised downward.

Congestion causes

In an alert to customers this week, carrier Hapag-Lloyd reported, “All terminals [at Los Angeles/Long Beach] continue to be congested due to the spike in import volumes and [this] is expected to last until February.

“Terminals are working with limited labor and split shifts,” it said, asserting that this is related to COVID. “This labor shortage affects all terminals’ TAT [turnaround time] for truckers, inter-terminal transfers and the number of daily appointments available for gate transactions and delays our vessel operations.”

As a result of “lack of terminal space” to service vessels, “there is a constant switching of terminals that must be kept in mind” given that containers are ending up “in the wrong terminal,” said Hapag-Lloyd.  

Congestion woes are now spreading well beyond California ports, confirmed Hapag-Lloyd. The carrier reported “heavy congestion” in Canada and “berth congestion at Maher Terminal and APM Terminals [in the Port of New York and New Jersey] impacting all services with delays of several days being experienced upon arrival.”

Little relief ahead

Liner companies traditionally cancel numerous sailings during the Chinese New Year period to account for decreased Chinese exports. If they did so in 2021, it would allow U.S. terminals time to clear some of the inbound congestion. Unfortunately for terminals, liners are opting against canceling sailings during the Chinese holiday period next month.

Ports could also see congestion relief if U.S. consumer demand slowed. However, that does not appear to be happening.

Analysts believe the “blue sweep” scenario — with Democrats winning the presidency as well as both houses of Congress — will spur $1 trillion-$2 trillion in new stimulus during the first half of this year.

Investment bank Evercore ISI predicted, “Additional checks will reach consumers at a time when unemployment is lower [than during the 2020 stimulus round], mobility has significantly improved, the overall willingness to spend of the general public is up significantly, confidence levels are higher, housing is strong and the savings rate is still extremely high. That is a set-up for a consumer boom.” Click for more FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Greg Miller 

MORE ON CONTAINERS: ‘Blue wave’ could spur stimulus on top of stimulus: see story here. Liners highly unlikely to slash service for Chinese New Year: see story here. Container shipping 2021: hangover or party on? See story here.

A view of normal times in San Pedro Bay, when there are few ships at anchor (Photo: iStock)

By American Shipper

Chile Takes Measures To Help Growers During Drought

The drought affecting Chile since 2010 has led the government to take emergency measures in order to help farmers and ranchers.

According to information published by the General Directorate of Water of the Ministry of Public Works of Chile, as of November 2020, 16 water shortage decrees are in force in 79 communes, concentrated in the Valparaíso and Metropolitan regions.

In this scenario, it becomes fundamental to invest in solutions that will allow for efficient water usage. Alejandro Friedli, manager of Large Companies, Products, and Agriculture for Banco de Chile, said that water is one of the most sensitive points of the agricultural business and for this reason, the institution has been concerned with creating specialized financing instruments for agriculture. 

He stated: “We have supported storage infrastructure (for example, reservoirs and dams) as well as efficiency improvements for these (with coatings), investments in loss prevention for water conduction, the expansion of technical irrigation surfaces, and the installation of sensors and equipment the improve the efficiency of water use, among other [measures].”

In this regard, Friedli explained that the role of the Banco de Chile is to be a link in the agricultural sector’s productive change, which it sees as “a fundamental pillar of the economy and the country’s development”.

From this perspective, he affirmed that the bank trusts the national agri-food industry and its capacity for growth, for which it has specialized in the creation of adequate financial instruments in a sector where the structure and vision of the short, medium and long terms are relevant.

To this, he added: “We have a human team that is familiar with all the particulars of the business and we maintain active participation in union activities within the sector so that we can stay up to date with the current and future needs of our clients. 

The executive said that historically the Banco de Chile has had a close relationship with agriculture. In fact, the bank came into being after the merger of three financial institutions, one of which was the Banco Agrícola.

“Even though we have always been present in the sector, big changes in the industry have motivated us to rise to the occasion and gain the ability to better advise our clients. In 2017 we reinforced the agricultural area with the aim of providing a closer and more specialized service,” Friedli said.

He commented that the bank also maintains a close relationship with the union and productive sector, to keep up to date with reality as well as present and future needs. 

Agricultural Water Summit – Chile 2021

Collaborative instances where different links of the agricultural industry chain meet are necessary to be able to pull through in times of water adversity.

Companies like Banco de Chile work to promote investment in the industry, providing economic solidity to water projects that help consolidate the future of agribusiness.

Agricultural Water Summit – Chile 2021 will be an event that generates space for conversation, where different figures with the fruit and vegetable sector will be able to meet and work on water problems and challenges.

The conference will be held on April 20, 2021, at the Sun Monticello Hotel Conference Center, located in San Francisco de Mostazal, Chile.

By The Packer

South Korean Container Lines Set To Launch K-Alliance On Asia Trades

The post-Hanjin evolution of South Korea’s shipping industry took another step forward last month with the formation of the K-Alliance.

Comprising HMM, SM Line, Pan Ocean and recently merged Sinokor Merchant Marine and Heung-A Line, the alliance will strengthen the carriers’ competitiveness in South-east Asia, according to Korea’s ministry of oceans and fisheries (MOF).

It said the alliance represented about 40% of Korea’s annual container volumes of 480,000 teu with the region, adding that this is a market share that’s under pressure due to the “aggressive expansion” of international players.

Launching in the second quarter, the code-sharing agreement between the carriers will help reduce costs and increase quality of service, the MOF added, while the alliance members will also be offered preferential interest rates for new vessel orders.

Sea-Intelligence’s Lars Jensen described the alliance as “another step towards carrier consolidation” in intra-Asia, a gradual process he sees taking place over the next decade, “not unlike the consolidation process in the deepsea trades”.

He cautioned, however, that 14 Korean container lines had announced the Korea Shipping Partnership (KSP) in 2017, “without the market having seen a pronounced effect”.

Indeed, while the K-Alliance could help bolster the balance sheets of its five members, there is little expectation it will have much impact on intra-Asia trade dynamics.

HG Jung, commercial director of Chung Yang Shipping, told The Loadstar: “The K-Alliance gives the impression of a government-subsidised survival plan, rather than a market domination strategy.”

For example, he said, the Hanjin bankruptcy in 2016 had sent shockwaves through the industry and “overwhelmed not only the nationwide private logistics sector, but also gave warnings to government bodies and lawmakers”.

While the KSP was formed in the Hanjin aftermath, Mr Jung said the K-Alliance followed the shipping “disaster” experienced last year at the onset of the Covid-crisis. The Korean government had announced an aid package for the shipping industry, but the ministry “encouraged those KSP members to form an alliance and consolidate their overlapped services in order to make the funding more effective”.

Nevertheless, the rapid reversal of fortunes for container lines last year helped HMM to an unexpected rebound in volumes and profits, he noted, thanks largely to record freight rates on the deepsea trades to North America and Europe.

Mr Jung added: “There have also been rate increases in breakbulk on the back of increased Chinese demand in coal, ore and grain; Panocean and Korealine are slowly exiting out of a long tunnel of financial deficits.

“It’s too early to say Korea’s shipping industry has had a complete recovery or that it’s booming, but the rock-bottom has passed and the curve is pointing upwards – in the order of container shipping then breakbulk – and hopefully, on and on.”

By The LoadStar

The Real Cost Of Ocean Freight Out Of Asia Is Hitting ‘Unbelievable’ Heights

Notwithstanding further rate spikes this week, the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) is still understating the prices shippers are paying carriers, according to a senior analyst.

“It should be noted that the market is at a point where the SCFI is, in some cases, significantly underestimating actual rates paid,” said SeaIntelligence’s Lars Jensen.

However, the SCFI’s comprehensive index, reading 2,411.82, is 167% higher than a year ago, reflecting huge spot rate increases across all export trades from Asia.

For example, rates to the South American east coast are recorded at some 200% higher than 12 months ago, while intra-Asia spots are 450% more expensive.

But the SCFI this week recorded only a modest 6% uplift for rates to North Europe, to $3,124 per teu. And although this rate is 230% higher than a year ago, it is well below the whopping price increases shippers are said to be encountering on the route.

It appears from reports by shippers to The Loadstar this week that 40ft FAK rates to North Europe for 15 January are in the range of $10,000 to $16,000.

Mr Jensen said today he was “somewhat lost for words in describing container rate developments this week”, and shippers accuse the container lines of “making a bad situation worse”.

CEO of UK-based specialist logistics firm JAG-UFS Gary Wilcox took to LinkedIn yesterday to vent his anger, saying he had been in the logistics industry for 35 years and had seen fluctuations in ocean rates before, but never to this extent.

“Today I have seen container rates from China to the UK at the highest level I have ever witnessed,” he said, adding that the shipping lines’ justification of hiding behind the pandemic was “just not acceptable”.

“There is congestion at ports, there is an imbalance of equipment and a huge demand for space, but there is no justification for an increase of over 800%!” he said.

Meanwhile, the SCFI recorded a $150 per teu increase for Mediterranean rates, to $3,223, which is 194% higher than a year ago.

On the transpacific, rates  have remained stable, at an inflated level, for several weeks since the intervention of Chinese regulators and the investigation into carrier practices by the US Federal Maritime Commission.

The US west coast component of the SCFI actually edged down, by $48 per 40ft to $3,900 this week, albeit that the rate is still 190% higher than a year ago. For the east coast, the SCFI ticked up $69, to $4,874 per 40ft, which is just under 100% above the level of 12 months ago.

But Jon Monroe, of Washington state-based Jon Monroe Consulting, said the actual rates paid by shippers, taking into account premium container and space guarantee fees, was closer to $6,000 for the west coast and $7,000 + for east coast ports.

“Today I heard of some companies buying rates at $8,000-plus for the west coast. It seems unbelievable to me,” said Mr Monroe.

He reported that import orders “remain strong, with retailers ordering spring and summer merchandise early to avoid delays.

“With the surge of imports continuing through January, BCOs will continue to be reliant on NVOCCs for extra space beyond their contract,” added Mr Monroe.

By The LoadStar

Washington Growers Prioritize Vaccinations For All Farmworkers

Fruit and vegetable growers in Washington state are urging the state to prioritize vaccinations for all farmworkers. 

On Jan. 14, growers sent a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee warning that failure to do so could cause a farm labor crisis.

The letter was signed by leaders of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, the Washington Farm Bureau, the Washington Growers League, the Washington State Potato Commission, the Washington Asparagus Commission, the Washington Blueberry Commission and several other farm and livestock associations.

The letter said the groups “support and greatly appreciate” the classification of agricultural workers as a high priority behind only health care workers and those with serious health issues in the state’s vaccination plan. 

“However, we are concerned that the proposed timeline for vaccinating this population will not be complete before employment activity and temporary housing occupancy begins rising in early March,” the letter said. “Whether these workers are living in workforce housing or in private residences, which are often multi-generational and can be more crowded than state-licensed employer-provided housing, it would be better to complete vaccination of these essential farm and food workers before we approach peak seasonal agricultural employment.”

The groups recommended that Inslee:

  • Prioritize vaccinating all food and farmworkers living, working, or being transported in close contact settings, regardless of age;
  • Ensure ongoing priority for migrant and temporary farmworkers;
  • Convene a group of employers, housing and health providers, and worker advocates to identify logistical challenges and available resources to speed vaccinations; and
  • Start a communication campaign to dispel rumors and educate workers and families on the importance of vaccination.

Jon DeVaney, president of Washington State Tree Fruit Association, said the goal is to ensure workers are vaccinated “before our season really gets rolling.”
Growers are also concerned that expensive COVID-19 regulations related to farmworker housing may continue for a time after the vaccine is administered to all farm workers. The state recently extended the emergency housing regulations for three months; DeVaney said it is possible that farm workers will be vaccinated before then.

Under the state’s plan, older farm workers will begin receiving vaccinations in February. Vaccinations for younger workers could happen as late as April.
DeVaney said it makes more sense to do all farm worker vaccinations at a particular site at one time, rather than split the age groups.

He also said all farm workers should have access to the vaccine, regardless of age or immigration status.

“We want to make sure that we’re not segregating out certain workers as getting the vaccine and others not on the basis of their immigration status rather than on the basis of how much risk there is,” he said.

While the Northwest Horticultural Council was not a signatory of the letter, president Mark Powers said the council supports vaccination efforts.

By The Packer


The price for avocados on the global market has been rising in recent weeks due to a smaller supply and a shortage of large sizes. At the moment, Mexico and Chile dominate the market, but their volumes are declining. In Europe, there is also an on-going switch to the productions from Israel, Spain and other countries around the Mediterranean, where the season is in full swing. Many traders expect prices to remain high.

Netherlands: Stable, high prices for avocados
In the Netherlands, avocado sales have been good during the holidays, with stable, high prices. Importers expect this market situation to continue in the coming weeks. Fewer Hass avocados have been supplied by Colombia, which means that their prices are higher than those of the traditionally more expensive Spanish Hass avocados. For the Greenskin avocados, the key supplier is Israel with its Pinkerton. This market is characterized by a shortage of large sizes, whose prices are also at a high level.

Germany: Difficult avocado market
As a result of the current market developments and the extension of the lockdown, the situation in the avocado market is extremely difficult. Due to the closing of restaurants, the volume purchased in the wholesale trade has been reduced, and there is still a shortage of air freight capacity.

Volumes are stable across the board, with few excesses. Wholesale prices fluctuate around 10-12 Euro per colli. “The current surcharge for air freight, in combination with the seasonal supply of European tropical fruits, means that citrus and pomegranates are more likely to be purchased than pineapples and avocados. We see that clearly reflected in the market situation,” said a wholesaler.

France: Several origins on the market
On the French market, the supply from Mexico, Chile and Columbia is currently coming to an end and the first avocados are arriving from Israel, Spain and other Mediterranean countries. However, the harvesting is limited due to the cold weather and rain. Prices have risen slightly, but the demand is currently stable.

Spain: Prospects for January and February are favorable
This year, the avocado harvest is expected to be about 10% smaller in Malaga, the main production area of ​​this subtropical fruit in Spain, although this could be offset by the entry into production of new plantations in other production areas of Granada, Cadiz, Valencia, Huelva and Portugal. The Spanish avocado season started in October with the Bacon variety, which had good sales in the first weeks. As of late October, sales fell by about 30-40%, given the growing uncertainty caused by the pandemic continuing to spread and the stricter containment measures enforced in every country and region.

After the worst Christmas campaign of the past 10 years, sales are now starting to recover. In the past 3 weeks there has been a lot of speculation in Spain and prices are too high, reaching around 3 to 3.50 € per kilo at origin. With those prices, the demand stagnated, but now European retailers are starting to buy more from Spain. However, there is still fruit from many origins, such as Colombia, Mexico, Israel and Chile, and this is causing confusion in the markets. According to a Spanish importer, grower and trader, the Chilean campaign is now nearing its end, the supply of Colombian avocados is more limited and the quality of Mexican avocados is lower; therefore, Spanish avocados have better options in the markets and will have an interesting gap until March. In terms of sales, the prospects for January and February are good. The hospitality industry is still closed in many countries and this is taking a toll on sales, but overall there will be good demand as long as there is not too much speculation. There will be more competition from March, as Peru and Kenya will start their seasons. Peru expects about 20% more production this year.

South Africa: Harvest of the earliest avocados starting next month
In January, there is a shortage of avocados on the domestic market. Prices amount to around 32 ZAR (1.70 Euro) per kilo.

The earliest avocados in South Africa will be picked next month in the most northern regions, such as Levubu, in Limpopo province. The weather conditions are good at the moment. Much rain has fallen, replenishing the reservoirs. It is still too early to give any estimates about how the coming season will go, but the prospect is that more avocados will enter the market, given that more avocado trees have been planted. The CEO of the South African Subtropical growers association said that the fruit set of the avocados is not as good as expected.

United States: Avocado prices on the rise
After a significant decline, the price of avocados has increased and may continue to do so. Currently, Mexico is the only player in the market shipping avocados, as Peru, Chile and California have finished their seasons. California expects to ship avocados to the market again in April. “In Mexico, the harvest is now underway in the higher altitudes,” says a North Carolina importer. “Production is now lower than two weeks ago. In some areas, the number of harvest permits per day, per municipality, has been limited from 180 to 120. With this, they aim for prices to improve.” By reducing the supply, the price for Mexican avocados has increased from $ 19 per box of 48’s to $ 26 per box. Prices are expected to continue increasing in January and February.

There are more factors playing a role in this. Frost hit Mexico in early 2021, which could have affected thousands of hectares. This may also have consequences for next year’s harvest. Growers in Mexico are also concerned that the frost will continue in January. Still, growers are motivated to keep picking, as the trees are already blooming. With the avocados ripe for picking still on the tree, this could lead to sizes being smaller. This year, the volume of avocados is expected to increase by 71,000 tons.

Mexico: More volumes going to Europe
Production is going well, but due to the lower demand due to the closing of the food service, there is some oversupply on the market. The state of Michoacán usually exports almost all of its avocados to the United States, but some of its volumes have also been shipped to the EU in the past month due to lack of demand in the US. The state of Jalisco is unable to export to the US, so the EU is already a regular market for its avocados, but with the volumes now also coming from Michoacán, there is a high supply in the market. Mexican avocado prices have dropped significantly; by about 50%, compared to last year. Jalisco is working to gain access to the US market for its avocados, which would open up many new opportunities for producers there, as the US is one of the world’s largest buyers of avocados. This year, 71,000 tons more are expected there, compared to last year.

China: More origins allowed on the Chinese market
More countries received permission to export avocados to China last year and the range of avocado varieties is also becoming increasingly diverse. Chile and Mexico currently dominate the market, although the Chilean season is coming to an end and the focus is shifting more to cherries. The quality of the Mexican fruit varies, so there are considerable price differences. Mexican imports are also facing logistical challenges. Shipments are not arriving on time, so the products being sold on the market come from storage.

Over the last year, the Dominican Republic and Colombia have also exported to China. Colombia is a especially popular supplier among Chinese importers and some companies have purchased more batches. Nevertheless, there are still problems with the import due to the coronavirus. California avocados also have the potential to enter the Chinese market.

Some Chinese avocado companies are starting to grow domestic fruit in the Yunnan province and investing in local avocado ripening centers. Chinese companies expect the market to recover and consumer demand to increase after the cherry season, as avocado is considered a “superfruit” and, due to the coronavirus, many people in China are aiming to eat healthier.

Australia: Smaller harvest offers opportunities to New Zealand and Chile
Australia is now well into the summer season and, as expected, the supply has been reduced. Most of the domestic production at this time of the year comes from Western Australia, with some small volumes from Central New South Wales and the Tristate (Victoria, South Australia and the rest of New South Wales).

During the Christmas season, New Zealand actually accounted for most of the shipments to Australia, and for the first time, small quantities were also shipped from Chile to Australia. The opportunity for New Zealand to increase its supply and the arrival of the first Chilean shipments were possible because of a reduction in the harvest in Western Australia, where several cold fronts and storms took a toll on the production.

The industry association Avocados Australia says this situation is likely to be limited to the 2020/21 season, as more of the land’s new plantings are becoming productive. Australia expects to produce around 115,000 tons by 2025, which should be enough to meet the country’s domestic demand. The domestic market is still supplied with the Hass, although a small number of orchards in North Queensland are reportedly preparing for an early Shepard harvest.

By FreshPlaza

Liners Highly Unlikely To Slash Service For Chinese New Year

Only 2% of Asia-West Coast service has been canceled so far versus the usual 20%

Every year, the global supply chain grapples with a major disruptive event: Chinese New Year (CNY). Volumes at sea plunge as Chinese factories shut down. Carriers temporarily “blank” (cancel) sailings due to lack of outbound boxes. Importers pull cargoes forward before the holiday to ensure they have enough inventory.

CNY falls on a different date every year. Its impacts on world trade are so substantial that analysts often plot year-on-year comparisons in relation to CNY timing, not the calendar.

For the second year in a row, the CNY pattern looks like it will break the mold.

The Wuhan outbreak extended the normal CNY period of blank sailings in 2020 by several weeks. The Chinese COVID outbreak essentially lengthened the traditional vacation break. This doubled the usual CNY holiday effect.

The mirror-opposite scenario is taking shape in 2021. Chinese factory workers will still take their vacations, but carriers appear almost certain to blank drastically fewer sailings than usual.

Sharply reduced blank sailings

China is holding its CNY celebrations from Feb. 12-26 this year. According to Sea-Intelligence CEO Alan Murphy, “Carriers are likely having a difficult timing planning capacity management for CNY 2021.”

He added: “With under six weeks left, the clock is ticking.”

As of last Friday, carriers had announced just five blank sailings on the trans-Pacific and seven on the Asia-Europe route for the CNY period.

Last year, there were 73 CNY blank sailings on those routes (excluding blanking due to the COVID outbreak). In 2019, there were 67.

(Chart: Sea-Intelligence Sunday Spotlight: Issue 495)

“At present, CNY reductions are hardly visible for 2021,” commented Murphy.

CNY capacity reductions on the Asia-West Coast route for this year are currently just 2.1%. Asia-East Coast reductions are just 3.6%. In sharp contrast, the average CNY reductions in 2016-2019 were 20.4% and 19.2%, respectively.

(Chart: Sea-Intelligence Sunday Spotlight: Issue 495)

Carriers can still blank more sailings, but they would need to do so quickly. For “relative capacity reductions of previous years [to] be reached, carriers would need to blank 37-41 sailings on Asia-West Coast and 12-15 sailings on Asia-East Coast,” noted Murphy.

“It is clear that the carriers are currently scheduled to blank far less than in previous years,” he said.

“If they are to reach the level of previous years, a raft of blank sailings would have to be announced very soon.”

American Shipper asked a Maersk spokesman whether the liner giant would curb CNY blank sailings this year. Maersk didn’t answer the question directly but responded, “We continue to see demand strength in North American customers as a carryover from the extended peak of 2020. We’re in close communications with them and our intention is to support their needs and those of our U.S. exporters as we approach CNY.”

Pros and cons of 2021 CNY pattern

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Chinese exporters are facing unprecedented delays in getting their goods to sea. A sharp reduction in CNY voyage cancellations should help clear cargo logjams on the Asia side.

SeaIntelligence Consulting CEO Lars Jensen told American Shipper, “As a starting point, this is good. Either demand continues to be strong, in which case the capacity is certainly needed. Or demand sees the usual seasonal slowdown, in which case this will be a big help in alleviating the capacity bottlenecks.”

According to Eytan Buchman, chief marketing officer of Freightos, “Carriers have announced far fewer than normal blanked sailings around the CNY lull.”

This “may indicate they will use that time to help relieve the empty container imbalance,” said Buchman.

But it’s not all good news. A normal level of CNY voyage cancellations would have helped ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach clear the queue of ships at anchorage in San Pedro Bay. The Marine Exchange of Southern California reported that there were 33 container ships at anchorage as of Monday.

Asked whether a decline in CNY sailings was good or bad for port congestion, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka told American Shipper, “Given the import surge that has been ongoing since summer, we expected a reduction in Lunar New Year blank sailings. We have been in touch with carriers about this and we are working with our stakeholders to manage the increased volume.”

Steve Ferreira, founder of Ocean Audit, believes carriers’ decision to not blank nearly as many CNY sailings is an ominous sign. “It’s bad,” he opined. “It means the problem is probably at least two times worse than we imagined.”

Rising regulatory risk

Another reason carriers are highly unlikely to slash CNY services to the usual extent involves regulation.

Freight rates are historically high and have already caught regulators’ attention. The Federal Maritime Commission is monitoring carriers’ blank-sailing actions and increased carrier reporting requirements in late November.

The European Shippers’ Council and European Freight Forwarders Association sent a joint letter to the European Commission on Monday alleging that carriers are violating contracts and “unilaterally setting rates far in excess of those agreed in contracts.”

In its initial public offering (IPO) registration, the carrier ZIM disclosed that two of its subsidiaries “became involved in two separate industry-related investigations regarding competition law issues.”

It also disclosed that “a claim was filed against the company, together with other carriers operating in that jurisdiction, regarding commercial issues. The involved carriers jointly responded to the claim.” ZIM did not disclose the jurisdiction or the nature of the claim.

It is still theoretically possible that carriers could blank their usual number of CNY sailings. But to do so, they would need to announce a very large number of sailing cancellations in the next few weeks — at the very time rates are historically high.

That in itself would not look good to regulators. And if carriers went ahead with their usual blanking strategy and rates in the CNY period stayed high or rose further, it would look even worse. 

By American Shipper

LA/Long Beach Anchorages Full As Cargo Surge Clogs Californian Supply Chains

Terminals in the two largest container ports in the US are so congested that most ships are having to wait at anchor until a berth becomes free.

Southern Californian ports are suffering from near-record levels of congestion, with many ships arriving off Los Angeles or Long Beach forced to anchor for several days before being able to dock because there is nowhere to put the containers that need to be unloaded.

Most of the world’s top container lines have ships caught up in the gridlock, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data, with some vessels still waiting to berth after more than a week at anchor.

At the centre of the crunch are nearby distribution centres that were overflowing even before the latest import surge. That means beneficial cargo owners are having to find alternative storage space for merchandise they have ordered, including on chassis that are required by trucks to haul containers, so creating equipment shortages within the ports. Containers that would normally be stacked three high are now piled five high, adding to the problem of extricating the correct ones for forward delivery, say local sources. Adding to the gridlock are longer container dwell times on the terminals, while the delays are pushing the hours of local truck drivers up to their allowable limits.

On the ocean side, the extra waiting times that ships are encountering are likely to disrupt sailing schedules for weeks to come.

The Marine Exchange of Southern California, which is responsible for overseeing vessel movements in and around the two largest ports in the US, said that an unprecedented 42 ships were at anchor outside the adjacent San Pedro Bay ports on Boxing Day, with contingency anchorages having to be utilised as regular ones filled up. By December 28, 26 ships were at anchor, of which 24 were containerships, with two scheduled to berth later in the day and five more due to arrive.

Lloyd’s list Intelligence data showed 29 containerships at anchor on December 29, 0700 hrs local time.

The latest numbers are exceeding those in early 2015 when a combination of protracted negotiations on a new contact for dockworkers, and the introduction of reconfigured container line alliances, created gridlock within the two ports. Large numbers of ships had to anchor, mostly for a few days but occasionally for up to a month.

In November, 50 of the 88 ships bound for the port of Los Angeles had to anchor for an average of 2.5 days, according to executive director Gene Seroka.

By mid-December, that figure had risen to 80% of ships heading for Los Angeles, with waiting times at anchor increasing to four days.

The situation has worsened since then, however. With the number of ships calling at LA and Long Beach in recent weeks swollen by extra-loaders deployed by container lines to help move so much cargo, the Marine Exchange has had to send some ships to anchorages off Huntingdon Beach, south of the two ports, as other slots filled up.

Lloyd’s List Intelligence data shows that Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Co, CMA CGM, Cosco, Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd, and ONE are among lines whose ships have been held up.

On Dec 29, they included the 8,000 teu Georg Maersk (IMO: 9320257), which arrived in the anchorage on December 18, and is not due to berth until December 31.

Mediterranean Shipping Co has incurred several delays including the 16,500 teu MSC Venice (IMO: 9647473) which had to wait a few days before berthing just before Christmas, while the 14,300 teu MSC Aries (IMO: 9857169) is currently in the anchorage.

The 3,650 teu CMA CGM Africa Four (IMO: 9451965) anchored on December 28 and is not due to berth until January 4, according to LLI. The UK-flagged, 8,400 teu Ever Liking (IMO: 9629043) has been waiting to dock since December 23.

Two ships operated by Japanese line ONE, the 5,000 teu MOL Empire (IMO: 9407160) and 4,800 teu MOL Experience (IMO: 9333838) have been sent to the Huntingdon Beach anchorage, while the 10,000 teu Cosco Africa (IMO: 9345439) is another that has been forced to wait.

The scenes off the southern Californian coast are reminiscent of the situation between October 2014 and April 2015, when as many as 36 vessels were waiting to enter port at one stage, most of which were boxships, as quays remained clogged with cargo.

But the peak in terms of ship numbers was in 2002 during the infamous lock-out that occurred during angry contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the Pacific Maritime Association. At the height, 65 ships were ordered to anchor, but the vessels were very much smaller than in 2014/15 when containerships of 10,000 teu or more had to wait for several days. Now, many of the ships are even larger.

By Janet Porter, Lloyd’s List

Church Brothers Farms Acquires Green Giant™ Fresh Value-Added Veg Business From Growers Express

SALINAS, CA – Last January, Church Brothers Farms rocked the industry’s boat by acquiring the commodity vegetable business of Growers Express. Almost a year later, the grower is celebrating its success with yet another acquisition from Growers Express, this time scooping up the Green Giant™ Fresh value-added vegetable business. While details of the transaction were not disclosed, we know that the acquisition will include a Growers Express’ production facility and equipment located in Gonzales, California. According to a press release, Church Brothers will absorb the acquired value-added vegetable product line into its existing Green Giant Fresh sublicense with Growers Express. Additionally, the company is integrating over 130 Growers Express’ value-added fresh employees into its operation.

Rick Russo,
VP of Strategic Growth and Planning,
Church Brothers Farms

“Taking over an existing program allows us to invest in innovation that will build our business as we expand our capabilities and resources,” Church Brothers’ Vice President of Strategic Growth and Planning, Rick Russo said. “The expansion of our existing value-add salad and vegetable program will also allow us to offer more to our foodservice customers. The location of the Gonzales facility is ideal because it is where our Green Giant Fresh commodity program is shipped from and maintaining the employees there will provide continuity in service and quality assurance.”

With this most recent acquisition, the entire fresh vegetable program of Growers Express is now folded into Church Brothers Farms. The deal will provide instant expansion for the company into a number of high-growth, value-added categories such as Brussels sprouts, riced vegetables, vegetable noodles, single serve vegetable bowls, and Little Gem lettuce. This value-added fresh vegetable product line is expected to enhance the company’s growing retail offering.

While details of Church Brothers Farms’ latest transaction were not disclosed, the new acquisition will include Growers Express’ production facility and equipment located in Gonzales, California

Growers Express will retain its frozen cut vegetable business that includes noodles, rice, and cut vegetables. Additionally, Growers Express retains the master licensing agreement for the Green Giant Fresh brand. The company also operates a cooling facility in Gonzales; a processing facility in Biddeford, Maine; and a frozen processing operation in Yuma, Arizona, that are not included in this transaction.

Tom Byrne, President, Growers Express

“This is a mutually beneficial scenario that allows us to focus on our frozen vegetable business while we partner with Church Brothers and other vegetable growers to expand into new products and categories with our successful Green Giant Fresh licensed brand,” said Tom Byrne, President of Growers Express. “Church Brothers Farms has been a true partner for many years, and we’ve come closer together during the past year as we integrated our commodity team into the Church Brothers family. I am confident this transition will be as successful and that it will allow both organizations to leverage our strengths for mutual gain.”

Congratulations to Church Brothers Farms on yet another monumental acquisition!

By AndNowUKnow

Container Ships Suffer Record Delays As Demand Spikes

You need your ocean cargo ASAP. You know which container ship it’s on. What’s the chance that your ship arrives at the port on schedule? For the answer, flip a coin. Heads: The ship will dock on time. Tails: It’ll be late — possibly very late.

On Thursday, Copenhagen-based Sea-Intelligence released its Global Liner Performance Report for November. It found that average global carrier schedule reliability across 34 trade lines fell to just 50.1% last month.

It is the worst global score recorded since Sea-Intelligence introduced its reliability measure in 2011. The second- and third-worst scores were recorded in September and October. 

The year-on-year decline has been precipitous. In November 2018 and 2019, carrier services were far more reliable, averaging 75.5% and 80% reliability, respectively.

container reliability data
(Chart: Sea-Intelligence Global Liner Performance Report: November 2020)

The November data was particularly ominous for U.S. importers. Asia-U.S. reliability was far below the global average. Trade-lane stats are analyzed on a two-month rolling basis. For October-November, on-time arrivals were down to 28.6% in the Asia-West Coast trade and 26.4% in the Asia-East Coast trade.

In other words, for U.S. importers, it’s not a coin toss. The chance of avoiding ocean delays is less than one in three.

This could get worse before it gets better. American Shipper asked Sea-Intelligence CEO Alan Murphy whether reliability could hit new lows by January, amid the pre-Chinese New Year rush.

“It’s not impossible,” Murphy warned. “Especially given what we’re seeing with [container] equipment shortages.”

Not just more delays, but longer delays

The news for shippers gets even worse. It’s not just that delays are becoming more frequent. It’s that delays are getting longer.

Sea-Intelligence calculated that the average delay for late vessels had risen to 5.1 days in November. That’s an 11% increase from average delays of 4.51 days in August.

container reliability data
(Chart: Sea-Intelligence Global Liner Performance Report: November 2020)

The all-time monthly global high in this Sea-Intelligence data set came in January 2015 — 5.5 days — amid labor unrest at U.S. ports.

Even so, 2020 stands out. In each month since April, 2020 average delays set records for that particular month. 

And while November’s number is still below 2020’s peak of 5.48 days in May, the situation in May was different.

In Q2 2020, carriers “blanked” (canceled) an unprecedented number of sailings. The lower number of vessels in service was easier for carriers to manage, so schedule reliability improved. While delays were longer in May, schedule reliability had rebounded to 74.8% that month.

In contrast, November suffered a worst-case combo of much higher unreliability plus extended delays.

Ranking the carriers: from best to worst

Sea-Intelligence also analyzes schedule reliability by carrier.

Hamburg Sud ranked first in November, with schedule reliability of 61.5%. Rounding out the top five were Maersk Line (56.2%), CMA CGM (53.7%), Wan Hai (51.9%) and MSC (50.9%).

On the other end of the spectrum, the worst performer was HMM, with just 32.2% reliability. That’s about half of Hamburg Sud’s score.

Rounding out the bottom five were Yang Ming (35.6% reliability), ONE (38.1%), PIL (39.7%) and Evergreen (45.1%).

container reliability data
(Chart: Sea-Intelligence Global Liner Performance Report: November 2020)

Reliability slump could last until Q2

“With news of widespread port congestion, and with carriers not letting off capacity-wise until at least Chinese New Year, shipping might not see improving schedule reliability until Q2 2020,” warned Murphy.

Chance your ship will arrive on time? Heads you win. Tails you lose. (Photo: Flickr/frankieleon)

As he explained to American Shipper, “reliability was quite good” during the heavy blanking period in Q2 2020. “My assumption is that this was because you had fewer ships [in service], so it was easier to manage. It’s as simple as that.”

If so, the antithesis should also true, which is what the market is experiencing now. “From July onwards, the carriers put in more and more vessels and extra loaders [ships not part of a regular service]. Since they started doing that, reliability has gone to hell. As long as you’re piling in tons of extra capacity, it’s going to be a challenge.”

The ports factor

Beyond carrier capacity, the recovery of container-service reliability also hinges on ports.

SeaIntelligence Consulting Lars Jensen wrote in an online post, “The reality is that many ports suffer from catastrophic indigestion due to the sudden boom in demand owing to the pandemic effect. Such port congestion leads to massive waiting times for simply getting a slot at a berth. It would not be reasonable to purely blame the carriers for this dramatic drop in performance,” said Jensen. 

By American Shipper

Unprecedented Losses Plague Lettuce Growers As Salinas Valley Scrambles To Contain Pests That Threaten The Region’s Biggest Crop

By the time the good news about lettuce was announced, some of the bad news had already arrived, and a lot more was on the way.

In June, the annual crop report for Monterey County was released and it showed that the industry’s revenues from lettuce were way up. The leafy greens that allow Salinas Valley to call itself the “Salad Bowl of the World” generated $1.36 billion in sales in 2019, more than any other crop. Leaf lettuce was up nearly 15 percent from the previous year, and head lettuce was up about 12 percent.

It was hard to celebrate, however, because the coronavirus had been ravishing the industry for months. With demand for lettuce from restaurants plummeting, farmers almost immediately reported they had lost or declined to plant more than 2,000 acres in the Salinas Valley. Economists were projecting that California agriculture would shrink by $8.6 billion. Thousands of farmworkers were losing their jobs. Those who did work saw Covid-19 infect them at the highest rate of virtually any profession.

Deemed essential and expected to keep operating, agriculture was, and remains, a prime target for the coronavirus. As the impending arrival of a vaccine brings hope to the industry, however, another far more obscure virus threatens Monterey County’s top crop.

There almost seems to be a microbial conspiracy afoot. A virus spread by tiny flying insects is turning leaves brown, dry and dead. A mold that produces spores that swim through well-irrigated soil to target lettuce roots is causing them to rot until the plant can no longer feed itself. A bacteria coming from who-knows-where is clinging to the lettuce as it’s harvested, processed and shipped, and sometimes sickening salad eaters thousands of miles away.

“The losses were devastating in individual fields, in the range of 40 to 100 percent,” Richard Smith, a University of California farm adviser for Monterey County, says of crop loss this fall. “It was significant enough to cause a shortage of lettuce in September and October.”

Indeed, fast-food chains in some parts of the country were telling customers no lettuce was available for their burgers and sandwiches.

“We have not seen two diseases cause such extensive losses in the past,” Smith says, referring to the work of the virus, Impatiens necrotic spot virus, or INSV, and of the water mold Pythium uncinulatum.

Meanwhile, concern about a pesky strain of the bacteria Escherichia coli, or E. coli, led Canada to impose severe import limits on romaine from the Salinas Valley.

“There seems to be one thing after another,” Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales says. “These problems only add to the woes we have with Covid and the fires.”

But, Gonzales adds, lettuce has always followed boom and bust cycles. “In some years, some growers will not make a dime from lettuce but they will continue growing it because when the market is good, you make up for the bad years.”

He remains bullish: “I would say pay attention to the challenges, but I wouldn’t lose sleep over it because one of the things that gives us our strength is the diversity of crops that we grow in Monterey County.”

That confidence about the resiliency of local farming might prove true, but it is facing a historic test.

Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales is projecting confidence in the face of multiple attacks on Salinas Valley lettuce. He says our farmers have overcome adversity before and that region’s economy is stronger than any single crop, even lettuce, the number-one crop in the county’s biggest industry. When he released the 2019 crop report, Gonzales praised the “exceptional diversification” of Monterey County’s crops.

MARK MASON IS A VETERAN OF SALINAS VALLEY FARMING, having worked in pest control and crop management for decades. “I am a field guy,” says the Huntington Farms manager. During the growing season, he says he spends 99 percent of his time on the job outdoors making sure the crops grow according to plan.

He was among the first to realize the extent of the trouble facing lettuce. The losses that were coming would not register in the coming crop report but they were already visible in the field last year.

“The ‘oh, shit’ moment came at the end of last year with INSV,” he says. “I could see the virus coming into the edge of the lettuce field, and the edge kept getting bigger and bigger.”

“We are the Salad Bowl of the World and this thing is kicking our ass.”

He thought he could control the spread by killing bugs that carried the virus, which are known as thrips. So he had his crews spray for thrips. The virus kept spreading, so they sprayed again. Nothing. At that point, he rang up an entomologist. “I can’t control these thrips,” Mason told the insect expert. “We have got a problem here.”

The entomologist, Alejandro Del Pozo-Valdivia from the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources, who has since left for a job in Virginia, teamed up with Daniel Hasegawa, an insect researcher from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to study the problem. They realized that even in the absence of lettuce after harvest, the virus remained. “They started finding the virus in the weeds,” Mason says. “It was overwintering in these weed hosts.”

The threat of INSV is not new. The virus has been damaging California lettuce since 2006, but never on the scale of this year. Industry and government officials created a task force to search for answers.

“We are trying to figure out why we got hit so hard this year,” Mason says. “And is it going to be bad next year? We are looking at pesticides, crop rotations, biological treatments, seed treatments – anything we can do to mitigate this problem.”

For most of December, lettuce planting is on hiatus – a restriction imposed by a county ordinance. The annual December pause was enacted as a response to a flare-up of a different pest, the lettuce mosaic virus. What worked for that virus won’t work for INSV, because INSV can easily hide out in the weeds and hop back onto the lettuce when it grows anew. But the pause in lettuce growing does create a window of opportunity. The INSV task force is hoping to take advantage of this time to control the weeds that help the virus survive. “It’s the weakest link so you have to try to break the cycle before the next season,” Mason says.

The list of species of weeds that act as hosts is long: malva, short pod mustard, sow thistle, lambsquarters, shepherd’s purse, nettleleaf goosefoot, marestail, nettle, field bindweed, purslane, flax leaf fleabane and the nightshades.

Eliminating all of them is a massive challenge, says Gonzales, the ag commissioner.

“Most of the growers do a really good job keeping their fields free from these weeds,” he says. “Other entities aren’t perhaps as keen about controlling them. The counties, the cities, the state and the railroads – all of them have right of way in these areas. They do control their weeds to a certain extent but not necessarily to the degree we need them to. We are trying to get encroachment permits from the railroad and Caltrans to go on their properties and control these weeds for them.”

Professor JP Dundore-Arias runs the new plant pathology lab at CSU Monterey Bay, where he employs students as research assists. Karla Jasso, pictured above, has painstakingly gathered in vials more than 100 isolates of the pythium pathogen that’s attacking lettuce. She’s contributing to real work while gaining experience for her career.Parker Seibold

LAST YEAR, AS CSU MONTEREY BAY WAS PREPARING TO INTRODUCE ITS FIRST AGRICULTURE-FOCUSED DEGREE PROGRAM, it hired JP Dundore-Arias, a plant pathologist trained at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The new job was an opportunity to deepen the university’s relationship with the Salinas Valley. He looked forward to educating a student body that included people with a similar background to his own. A native Spanish speaker, Dundore-Arias was raised in Costa Rica and studied English as a second language in order to advance academically.

In addition to teaching, Dundore-Arias would use his faculty position to embark on a research project in his field. He decided to study a little-known disease called pythium wilt. It was caused by a mold that is known to inhabit water-logged soil.

Pythium was first detected in the Salinas Valley in 2011. “But it was never a major issue,” Dundore-Arias says. “Some yield losses were reported but nothing dramatic or devastating.”

The best reason he had to pick pythium was that no one else was working on it. “It was like an orphan pathogen,” he says. “I didn’t know it was going to be the mess that it turned out to be.”

Pythium produces two types of spores. Two-tailed zoospores swim through soil that is saturated with water until they find lettuce root tissue. Oospores are sexual and responsible for pythium’s reproduction. They are round with spikes and “look a little like Covid-19,” Dundore-Arias says. Due to the thick walls enclosing them, oospores can survive in the soil for years.

In the spring of this year, Dundore-Arias and his student researchers were out in the field collecting samples across the valley. Their work was being funded by the industry through a grant from the California Leafy Greens Research Board. They would yank out wilted lettuce – “It feels like pulling a dead body out of the ground,” Dundore-Arias says – to look for characteristic signs of pythium: roots that are decaying and have turned from yellowish to brown. “Pythium rots the roots. The plants are stunted. The leaves become wilted because the roots can’t feed them,” he says. They would mark locations on the map and take the samples back to the lab to confirm the diagnosis.

When the researchers returned to the fields in the fall, pythium seemed to be everywhere, especially around Gonzales and Chualar, but also as far north as Castroville and as far south as King City. “The level of infection we saw in the fall was many times greater than in the spring,” Dundore-Arias says. The disease seemed to be more severe for certain varieties, such as romaine, and less so with red leaf lettuce. Photographs he took show entire crop rows decimated. “We saw a 100-percent loss in some fields,” he says.

Becoming the pythium guy during a pythium crisis meant that unnerved farmers swarmed him with calls for help. “Because this is a new disease, there is a lot of desperation and a lot of requests for answers, but we just don’t know yet,” he says. “This is a very under-studied pathogen.”

The working theory is that this fall’s devastating spikes have to do with the heat waves that hit the Salinas Valley in August and September. When it gets very hot, the natural instinct of a farmer is to water more to make sure the soil has enough moisture. But wet soil facilitates the transmissions of pythium; its zoospores can swim quickly through the mud. When pythium hits and the roots of the lettuce stop drinking, the water accumulates in the soil, making the field more hospitable for the pathogen in a self-reinforcing cycle. This theory is corroborated by the burst of phone calls to Dundore-Arias arriving almost exactly two weeks after each heatwave.

“Between this disease and INSV, I have heard a lot of farmers saying they are very close to just walking away from planting more lettuce,” Dundore-Arias says. “They cannot just keep losing money at that magnitude.”

Mason, of Huntington Farms, has heard the same sentiment: “I only have second-hand info on this, but some growers are talking about not growing lettuce in this region anymore, which is really unheard of. We want lettuce grown in Monterey County. We don’t want to lose that revenue and those jobs.”

The full extent of the losses won’t be clear for a while. Certainly not until after the ag commissioner’s office sends out its annual survey for growers. Their answers will be collected, tabulated, and then published in the aggregate sometime in the middle of next year when the crop report for 2020 comes out.

IF INSV AND PYTHIUM ARE A MENACE ON THE SUPPLY SIDE OF THE LETTUCE BUSINESS, there’s also a threat on the demand side. In early October, in a move that caught local growers by surprise, Canadian food safety officials announced restrictions on the import of romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley.

The announcement cited an investigation into recent years’ outbreaks of E. coli that were traced back to lettuce grown on the Central Coast of California. According to the new rules, local romaine would have to undergo costly testing before it is allowed into Canada. The country is a major trading partner for Monterey County.

The Canadian announcement was not received well. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, the U.S. congressmember representing the region, called the romaine rule an “unwelcome surprise” and “burdensome to the Central Coast agriculture industry and will likely fail to improve the overall safety of romaine lettuce.” He questioned whether Canada’s food safety agency was basing its decision on sound science.

“We are trying to figure out why we got hit so hard this year. And is it going to be bad next year?”

From the growers’ perspective, the Canadians were ignoring all their efforts to prevent new contaminations.

By the end of the following month, it became harder to argue against the Canadian decision. A state lab in Michigan had detected E. coli during a routine sampling of a product packaged by the Salinas Valley’s Tanimura & Antle. The company announced a voluntary recall. Eleven days later, Fresh Express said it was recalling an expired salad kit because of potential contamination. Then, Dole Fresh Vegetables recalled organic romaine hearts from the Salinas Valley. In all three cases, no illnesses were reported, and the companies said they were simply being extra cautious.

“Canada is trying to project itself and it has implemented restrictions that are going to make it hard for us to stay in that market,” Gonzales says. “I don’t know what they are going to do to get lettuce.”

The U.S. government and farm groups are in talks with Canada. They are trying to convince officials to stop targeting Salinas Valley lettuce, according to Gonzales. “We are probably the best in the world at growing lettuce,” he says. “We have experience and the climate.”

One explanation he offers for the spike in outbreaks is that our systems for detecting contamination and identifying the causes of illnesses have improved. “We are more aware of when people become sick,” he says. “The [U.S. Centers for Disease Control] have a better system for capturing this. Before, these things were likely happening and we were not aware of it. The question becomes, what do we do about it?”

JP Dundore-Arias joined CSU Monterey Bay as a professor of plant pathology last year soon before the onslaught of pythium wilt. “This disease occurs late in the season when the plants are ready for harvest,” he says. “The farmer has money into labor, fertilizer, everything – and then in 10 days their whole field is gone.”Parker Seibold

GONZALES’ QUESTION IS ONE THAT FARMERS OFTEN CONFRONT AS PROBLEMS POP UP IN THE FIELD. There’s a state-run system in place that’s supposed to search for answers and provide relief, but many in the Salinas Valley say that system is not functioning well anymore.

Farm advisers working for the University of California’s Agricultural and Natural Resources arm and specializing in different areas are supposed to be available when the industry needs help with pests, irrigation, weeds or anything else. This program has a local office in Salinas and it is known as Cooperative Extension Monterey County.

“Whenever a grower has an issue, such as ‘I can’t kill a bug’ or ‘my nitrogen is being leeched,’ the farm advisers are like 911,” says Mason of Huntington Farms. “They are an unbiased research group. The farm adviser comes out and he asks 85 questions and starts pinpointing the problem and coming up with solutions.”

When the pythium outbreaks happened, farmers should have been able to turn to a UC farm adviser specializing in plant pathology. Or the farm adviser should have already been working on the issue.

But that position and others have remained vacant as the program’s budget has been cut, says Jennifer Clarke, the executive director of California Leafy Greens Research Board. “They truly don’t have the money,” she says. “They have never recouped from the cut in 2008, and they took another big cut this year with Covid.”

This year, the UC cut 12.7 percent from the UC Cooperative Extension program. Across the entire system, there are about 180 farm advisers and specialists. That’s down from more than 500 in 1990, according to Clarke. Right now, six advisers serve Monterey County. An annual report from 2006 lists 13 serving the county.

Clarke has been advocating to restore funding for farm advisers: “Farm advisers were so helpful to me early in my career – they are hugely important,” she says.

The designated plant pathologist left a few years ago so another UC farm adviser, Richard Smith, has stepped in to help with the virus and the mold – but his expertise is in weed science.

By a fortunate coincidence, CSUMB had just started an ag program and hired Dundore-Arias and Professor Elizabeth Mosqueda. “Both JP and Elizabeth have been great assets to the ag community,” Clarke says, but they are not a replacement for full-time farm advisers. “They are both constrained by their teaching responsibilities.”

The same goes for Hasegawa, who works for the USDA ag research station in Salinas. In the absence of a UC entomologist, he helps with insect issues but he can’t be available all of the time.

“We are the Salad Bowl of the World and this thing is kicking our ass and we don’t have farm advisers,” Mason says. The group of experts that’s been assembled is great, he says, but it’s not enough. “We are behind the eight ball. This is blowing up in our faces. It’s actually embarrassing.”

By Monterey County Weekly

Confidence In Home Cooking Here To Stay

What Produce Trends Can Be Expected In 2021?

Sheltering at home. Limited or no trips to restaurants at all. Wanting to eat healthier.

These are some of the significant trends seen in a pandemic-filled 2020 that, of course, have played out within produce companies.

At Frieda’s Specialty Produce in Los Alamitos, CA, the company has seen growth particularly in a few key items thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Turmeric has been on fire in terms of growth rate and ginger has been up 44 percent year over year,” says Cindy Sherman, director of marketing and innovation for Frieda’s, noting the company subscribes to IRI data. “Ginger’s dollar growth rate is amazing, given the huge size of the category already. For us, our dragon fruit business has been up considerably. It’s not a mainstream staple but people are using it more and more in their fruit salads and things like that.”

Sherman notes that because of the pandemic and it softening the foodservice industry as of March when restaurants closed, Frieda’s turned to focus more so on its retail business. “That caused us to eliminate items that were foodservice only. We had a more concentrated assortment of items that worked harder for us,” she says. “And it’s those items—like the dragon fruit—that aren’t the most exotic specialty items but aren’t mainstream either.”

Sherman sees continued interest from consumers in those just-outside-the-mainstream items into 2021. “People still want to discover new things and if they’re not eating out, they’ll turn to what they can rediscover in their own kitchen,” she says.

She notes a few other consumer trends that may develop throughout 2021 as vaccinations are being approved and distributed and, ostensibly, North America begins to reopen.

Embracing color
“Right now, there’s a lot of home comfort and there has been for the past six months at least. A lot of these will hold,” says Sherman. “But polychromatic plates are where we’re going. People are ready to shed the doom and gloom and embrace color and energy and living again once people are vaccinated and things are safer. We’ll start to focus on experiences again.”

Moving outside the norm
As Sherman notes, earlier in the pandemic particularly, consumers were interested in staples: potatoes and onions and later citrus, apples and bananas. “And people are so sick of cooking, food fatigue is real. However, they’re not necessarily now going to turn to the most far-flung items. But it may be jackfruit or purple sweet potatoes,” she says. “So, produce items that aren’t necessarily part of your everyday repertoire. Just bright, vibrant items that are a little bit outside the every day.”

Maintaining cooking confidence
“A lot of people learned they were better cooks than they thought they would be,” says Sherman. “We’ve built cooking confidence and that’s a good thing that’s emerged from the pandemic because it is more affordable and healthier to cook at home.” That said, the interest in returning to restaurants is there she says and 2021 may see a new baseline for home cooking. “Let’s say before the pandemic, people would eat out four times a week. Now they might just go three times a week because they are comfortable cooking more at home,” she says.

By FreshPlaza


Namibia and South Africa are now shipping their table grapes to the European market, while the North American market is mainly supplied by Peru, Chile and California. At the beginning of the overseas season, Namibia and South Africa started remarkably late. This is currently resulting in a more limited supply of grapes in Europe and therefore higher prices. This is expected to change in January, when more table grapes will arrive and prices should stabilize. In North America, there seems to be a greater pressure on prices. In China there is a shifting demand from imported products to the domestic production.

Netherlands: Limited supply of grapes from overseas
The first South African and Namibian grapes are arriving in the Netherlands. “The grape market is looking reasonably good. The sale of trays for supermarkets in particular is going very well. Loose grape sales have been planned with a bit more caution, also by us, but they are also yielding good money,” says an importer. “The Brazilian grapes are almost off the market and Peru doesn’t have too large volumes. To this we must add the delay in the start of the season in South Africa and Namibia, which has also contributed to the supply being limited. More is likely to hit the market next week, but the volumes won’t reach really high levels until week 53/1, when prices will probably also fall somewhat. Now they are at a stable level.”

“The prices for the white grapes range between 14 and 15.50 Euro, and the red ones are sold for 15 Euro. Last year, the prices were slightly higher, but this year the European grapes have been on the market a bit longer and there is also a little more supply from Brazil. All in all, I am not dissatisfied with the price level. There is also supply from Peru, but this one is more limited, partly due to strikes. The price of Peruvian Red Globe grapes oscillates between 18 and 20 Euro,” said the importer. “The question is: what impact will the new coronavirus measures have on the grape market? If markets close, they will certainly take their toll. In terms of quality, everything’s going well. Furthermore, there are many new varieties on the rise. For example, the demand for varieties such as the Sweet Globe and Autumn Crisp is increasing considerably, especially from service supermarkets.”

Germany: Difficult start for overseas grape season
The overseas grape season got off to a difficult start this year. Normally, the first Namibian and South African batches hit the market in late November, but this time the first shipments arrived in week 50. Therefore, the volumes available up to and during the holidays are expected to be modest. The starting position for overseas grapes, on the other hand, is very favorable. “There is virtually no European production anymore and we are consequently expecting high demand from the retail sector,” said an importer.

In any case, the first volumes from Brazil and Peru have had to deal with competition from the Italian production, so prices at the start of the season were very disappointing. The quality of the overseas product is satisfactory across the board, says an importer. Due to the weather conditions, a table grape shortage is expected in January, prior to the start of the season in India. There is even talk of a delay of around two weeks.

United Kingdom: First South African and Namibian grapes arrive
The Namibian and early South African grapes are now starting to arrive in the UK. The fruit has a very attractive appearance. “The Namibian Flame has a good size and taste, just like the Early Sweet and Prime. Although the seasons have started between 7 and 10 days late, having a good, fresh supply of table grapes is a good start to the Christmas period,” said an importer.

The European supply has been expanded this year with grapes from Spain. The Greek supply experienced some difficulties, with some quality issues and a lower volume of white grapes in storage. British retailers are promoting varieties like the Cotton Candy and Sable, but the range of other varieties is not wide or consistent enough to do this.

France: The demand exceeds the supply
The French are in between two campaigns. Peru and South Africa, for example, are starting their seasons. The volumes are small now, but the quality is fine. Spain, Portugal and Italy are about to finish. As a result, the quality of, for example, the Spanish grapes is no longer so excellent, even though it will be possible to find some on the market until Christmas. The demand is quite high and exceeds the supply; therefore, prices are also quite high.

Spain: Season almost over
The table grape season is almost coming to an end in Spain, where sales are now mainly focused on the domestic New Year’s campaign, with white-seeded grape varieties such as the traditional Aledo and imported seedless varieties, mainly from Peru. It should be noted that Spain is succeeding in expanding its campaign and that this has been especially noticeable this year with the seedless red varieties.

As for the Christmas and New Year’s Eve campaign, the pandemic is expected to bring changes to the fruit’s marketing. A high share of the sales to the hospitality industry has been lost, so the focus will be on those restaurant chains and catering services that deliver New Year’s Eve dinners to homes. Still, the sector hopes that retail sales will increase, because if people can’t eat out in restaurants or travel through Spain, as is often the case at this time of year, they will eat more and better at home.

The harvest in the main growing areas, such as Murcia and Alicante, has been smaller than last year. Last season there was a full production, so the yields had been expected to be lower this time. Also, the abundant rains before the start of the season spoiled some of the fruit due to fungal problems. Both the demand and prices have generally been good throughout the season.

Last year’s disastrous results for seeded grapes resulted in the harvest no longer being sustainable for some smaller producers, who chose to abandon the fields due to a lack of generational replacement and low financial profitability. The producers of seeded grapes closed the previous season with financial losses. Fortunately, this campaign has been much better. In fact, there has been a slight increase in the demand for seeded grape varieties this year, despite global trends increasingly focusing on seedless grapes.

Italy: Shorter season for domestic grapes
Due to high and persistent humidity in Italy, the last grapes were no longer suitable for the fresh market. According to the Italian Table Grape Commission, only a few batches of Regal or Red Globe and Black Pearl grapes will enter the domestic market during the holiday season. During the campaign, there has also been a lot of pressure on Italian grapes due to competition from Egypt, Greece and Spain at the start of the season and from overseas produce at the end of the campaign. For example, a trader from Apulia says that his red grapes were under a lot of pressure due to competition from Egypt. In mid-August, the situation for red and white grapes had improved due to retail promotions; however, the Greek competition entered the market in September.

Sicily is currently supplying its last Red Globe grapes to the market. In the first part of the season, the average prices went from 0.50 to 0.70 € / kg; in the second part, they were slightly higher, namely between 0.60 and 0.80 € / kg. The organic production was ready in early November, but the seedless varieties do not cover the late market. Both the Mazzarrone area (which is actually a bit ahead) and the Canicattì area are gradually devoting small production shares to seedless grapes. The market demand for them keeps increasing and growers must be prepared to take up the challenge while continuing to grow traditional varieties, such as Italian grapes.

South Africa and Namibia: Delay in the start of the season
The grape campaign started later this year. Namibia is currently in the peak season, while the Western Cape has only just started. There was a delay of around ten days in the Olifants River valley. At the same time, a week’s delay is expected in the Berg River and Hex River regions. The delay leaves South African and Namibian growers with a smaller window in the pre-Christmas market in Europe. Some have said that, due to the changes in people’s travelling and vacation plans this year, prices might continue better after Christmas. The quality and size of the fruit are considered exceptional this year.

Around this time of the year, the main logistics hub in the region, the port of Cape Town, is hindered by the wind, which sometimes prevents ships from entering or leaving the harbor. In the last 7-8 days, the situation has actually not been too bad, but the prospect is that the port will be forced to stop its activities again in the coming week due to strong winds. Besides the port situation, there have also been some tensions around the border crossing between Namibia and South Africa due to the coronavirus. The border has been occasionally closed to prevent spreading, but both governments have made agreements to guarantee a good flow of Namibian grapes to the South African ports.

By the end of week 48, South Africa had exported 1.5 million boxes (4.5 kg). This is a lot less than last year (4.4 million boxes around the same period) and significantly less (but with smaller margins) than two years before. Most exports were intended for the European market (1 million boxes), followed by the UK and the Middle East.

India: First grapes on the market; larger volumes from January
The Indian grape season is just starting, with smaller volumes for the time being. Larger volumes will be harvested from January. For one exporter, most of these grapes will go to the European market. The on-going farmers’ protests in India are having no impact on the current season, as the sales channels used by grape growers do not use the government’s traditional market platform. The main region for Indian grapes, Nashik, will have grapes ready to be harvested from week 2. We expect there will be enough grapes to harvest until week 15. In October there was persistent rain, forcing growers to postpone the pruning process. As a result, the volume available in January will be smaller than usual, and there will be more than usual in February. Due to the limited volume available for export in January, the prices for Indian grapes are expected to be on the higher side at the start of the season. In February and March, however, many grapes will be available for export and prices will be under pressure.

United States: Supply of domestic and import grapes
The grape supply is quite strong, as both domestic supplies from California and imports are available. The domestic harvest is comparable to that of last year. California is currently working on some of its late season varieties, such as the Crimson, Autumn Royal, Red Globe, Allison and Sweet Celebration.

The demand is steady at the moment, according to many traders. Much is currently going to retailers due to the coronavirus. Variety development is also helping boost the marketing of grapes by improving the eating quality and consistency. Prices have remained stable and comparable to those of the previous season.

Peru: Large volume of grapes heading for the US puts pressure on prices
In the US, the Peruvian import grape season has already started. The supply is expected to be 20% greater. At the start of the campaign, the Peruvian grapes go to other markets, but from November, the majority of the batches are shipped to the US. “The production was delayed in some parts of Peru due to the cold weather and the Brix was not at the right level. But now the volumes are good, and so is the quality of the Peruvian grapes,” said a Florida importer.

In Peru, the supply is currently shifting to the south of the country. “Year after year, Peru tries to extend the campaign. Normally we continue until early March, depending on the demand. But after that, the competition from Chile is stronger,” says the importer, who reports that Chile may start supplying earlier this year. The demand is not as favorable on the East Coast, and the grapes that are now arriving on the market don’t help in the transition. This is putting prices under pressure.

China: Demand shifts from imports to local products
The table grape yield for the 2020-2021 season is estimated at 11 million tons, slightly greater than in the previous season. The Shine Muscat and Xiahei are the two most popular varieties, and their production is increasing. This is especially the case for the Shine Muscat, whose production area has reached 6.6 million hectares, with a yield that accounts for almost 10% of the total market share.

The price differs greatly per variety. Shine Muscat prices were very high a few years ago, but with the increase in the production, the price has been dropping year after year. This year, the average price of the Shine Muscat amounts to around 20-40 RMB / kg; 50% less than last year.

During the pandemic, there have been problems with the logistics. The imported grape volume is 6% smaller than last year. In the meantime, the quality of the local production has improved considerably this year. The demand is therefore shifting from imported fruit to local products. Chile, Australia and Peru are the largest players in the Chinese table grape market. Chinese table grapes, in turn, mainly go to the Southeast Asian market. These are expected to achieve a 17% growth in the next season.

Australia: Concerns about cutbacks and restrictions due to the coronavirus
Some Northern and Western growers in Australia are either already harvesting for the 2020/21 season or are about to begin, and seasonal forecasts remain positive, despite the challenges that fresh produce growers across the country are facing. There are concerns about a labor shortage due to the coronavirus, because of the border restrictions, as well as about the higher cost of freight to international markets. In 2018/19, Australia produced 208,276 tons, 70% of which went to export markets.

However, the sector is hoping that recent funding from the federal government will help. The Australian Table Grape Association received more than 600,000 AUD this month for two projects aimed at improving market access for its growers, updating the capacity of the industry’s export accreditation system and creating mobile MRL apps. In 2018/19, Australia exported 146,093 tons of table grapes worth more than AUD 555 million. The Australian season runs from November to May.

By FreshPlaza

Updated: Shippers Blame Carriers For Entirely Predictable US Container Graveyard

Shippers are not buying into the box shortage paradigm, that the dearth of containers in Asia is caused by the pandemic, presented by shipping lines and others, with one shipper telling Container News, “Containers don’t have a life of their own, the lines manage their box fleets as well as their ships.”

Shippers believe that the cause of the container shortage and the spike in charges is the lines themselves, “Shippers are being charged astronomic rates for the lines’ own incompetence,” said one source, adding, “It’s easy to suggest it’s a problem from the pandemic, but the lines manage their own container fleets as well as the ships.”

Growing anger among global shippers, in both the US and Europe has seen the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) investigating charges and the box shortages in the US.

However, maritime consultant Mike Garratt, chairman of MDS Transmodal, which this week published a quarterly review of the container industry, argued that just by looking at the port statistics you can see that there is a problem with the view that there is a container shortage and this year there are more ‘missing’ containers than last year.

Los Angeles Port which published its figures for the first 11 months of this year showed that 4.413 million TEU entered the port, with a 3.92 million TEU exported, that means there is 493,000TEU, around 246,000 boxes somewhere in the US.

“Somewhere there is the most enormous hole with containers in it,” Garratt quipped. He adde that most often it is assumed that containers end up in the mid-West for the export of animal feed, but it could also be a secondary impact of the US trade war with China, however, “This could have been anticipated,” said Garratt.

Last year a similar situation was evident, but it was not nearly as acute, with an import deficit of 390,000TEU, around 190,000 boxes in total for the full year. Port of Long Beach figures were unavailable at the time of writing.

Shippers argue that while the lines were shipping containers they must have anticipated that containers would need to come back.

Even if carriers could have anticipated the box shortages the Danish consultancy Sea-Intelligence, with CEO Alan Murphy argue that the “dire shortage” of empty containers will not be resolved until the end of January or early February as with a combination of “aggressive repositioning” and the manufacturing of new boxes this will be the quickest route to alleviate the scarcity.

According to Murphy the acute lack of boxes is the largest problem facing container shipping at this time, with particular reference to Asia, the source of a large proportion of the worlds’ manufactured goods.

“This is what is driving spot rate markets to historical highs, and it is what is causing significant grief to shippers looking to get their product moved in a timely fashion,” said Murphy.

Sea-Intelligence estimated the number of available containers and the volume of cargo moving, which allowed the consultants to predict the time necessary for a loaded container to be shipped from Asia and to make its return journey in readiness for the next cargo.

“We then augmented this with Container Trade Statistics (CTS) demand data, and the potential buffer stock of empty containers in Asia, to model the empty container availability in Asia,” explained Murphy.

Using these informed predictive estimates Sea-Intelligence was able to model four different scenarios for dealing with the box shortage, do nothing, aggressively reposition containers, an injection of newly manufactured containers and a combination of aggressive repositioning and new boxes, as seen in the graphic, below left.

Source: Sea-Intelligence.

The combined strategy is the only way to resolve the issue within the end of January timeframe according to Murphy. And that is the method now being used by the carriers to reposition empty boxes. And it could be this strategy that is causing significant box shortages for back-haul cargo.

“The market is thus faced with a stark choice,” explained Murphy, “Either the carriers pursue the current strategy, and there is the possibility of resolving the container shortage during January, or the carriers reduce their aggressive repositioning strategy in order to serve back-haul shippers, but then the consequence is that the empty shortage problem will persist into at least February, and possibly beyond.”

This is not a scenario that James Hookham, the secretary general at the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) recognises, “I’m not so sure the shortages are as acute as they say,” he argued.

The GSF and consultants MDS Transmodal released a quarterly review of the container shipping market this week, which included assessing the numbers of containers in and out of ports and the evidence given by shippers, and the swift returns of empty containers are in the interests of the shippers, said Hookham, “No-one is hanging about,” he added.

He went to say, “There is a spike in demand in certain trades, but global trade is not much different to last year and there were no shortages then.”

However, this is not a view shared by the Container xChange and the company’s CAx scale is at 0.05, compared to last year’s 0.25. According to the Container xChange, equipment generally becomes more available at this time of year.

However, the lockdowns in the first and second quarters “disrupted supply-chains, causing significantly longer overall transit times and hence less trips per container per year – effectively reducing container supply,” said the company.

European shippers remain sceptical, with the Policy Manager for Maritime Transport at the European Shippers Council Jordi Espin arguing, “To us, this issue responds to what we call ‘grey containers’ which is repositioning empty containers not to where they are needed but to where there are high freight rates established. This may create an artificial view of relocating containers still far away from where the operational world is demanding them. The supporting policy to this is only more and more profits.”

Espin offers a solution, “There is an easier way of repositioning containers: shipping lines should offer empty containers to shippers under the “shippers’ own” mode. This would relocate containers exactly where the shippers’ demand needs them and would establish an exact pattern of what the operational world flows are demanding. But this latter solution needs a driven customer focus [from the shipping lines], which seems not to be the case now.”

Worldwide Logistics is reporting most of the major container ports in China have a shortage of containers, across all the lines. In addition all the lines have experienced shortages of containers in Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.

Jon Monroe, of Worlwide Logistics and an independent consultant, lists these further problems that must be overcome by the industry in the US.

  • Vessel waiting time at anchor: 4 to 6 days
  • Terminal congestion due to vessel delays
  • Shortage of terminal labour, thereby taking twice as long to offload a vessel
  • Appointment times at terminals not honoured.
  • Single transactions at terminal rather than dual transactions
  • Chassis shortages: companies hoarding chassis
  • Importers keeping equipment out for 10 to 14 days
  • Shortage of truckers
  • Unable to get appointment to return empties
  • Carriers returning to Asia empty; or at least with empty containers

These additional challenges to the industry and the criticisms levelled at the carriers by their customers was addressed by the lines through John Butler, President & CEO of World Shipping Council, which represents 20 of the world’s vessel operators.

Butler argues that the assumptions by shippers are false, in the first instance the assumption, “That carriers control demand for transportation services and therefore how many boxes move in each direction, and that carriers have sole control over their equipment.  Both assumptions are incorrect. On the first point, import and export numbers, and their effects on intermodal equipment, are driven by cargo demand. Carriers respond to that demand by deploying their vessels and containers to best serve the cargo that is tendered to them. That is what carriers are doing today.

“On the second point, the entire model of containerised transport is that a loaded box can be handed off among multiple actors in the intermodal chain without being unloaded and re-packed at each step. That means that the velocity of the container is affected by marine terminal operations, trucking companies, cargo owners, and others. Carriers do not control the manner in which these third parties work.”

As an example, Butler said if a shipper parks a loaded container and chassis in a depot for 10 days, both the container and the chassis are unavailable to carry other cargo.

“The actions of all participants in the supply chain affect every other participant in the chain.  It is this reality that defines the management challenge that we collectively face – not a simplistic approach that incorrectly suggests that one participant controls the entire process,” concluded Butler.

By Container News

PBH Helps Launch International Year Of Fruits And Vegetables

December 14, 2020 – The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) BB #:157162 President and CEO, Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, will represent North America, alongside other global leaders, during the International Year of Fruit and Vegetables (IYFV) launch event on Tuesday, December 15, 2020.

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly designated 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV), with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) serving as the lead agency for the year-long celebration in collaboration with other associated organizations and bodies.

“The Produce for Better Health Foundation is honored to work in collaboration with our global colleagues to celebrate the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables and commends the UN/FAO’s leadership in elevating the critical role of fruits and vegetables in both human and planetary health. Health is a top priority in the United States, Canada and around the world given the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with a viable vaccine, fruits and vegetables bring health, happiness and hope to so many. We must work together to make greater consumption of the most healthful foods on the planet a sustainable reality,” says Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, Produce for Better Health Foundation President and CEO.

The IYFV launch comes as PBH prepares to launch its State of the Plate: Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in America research in January 2021. In addition, the 2020-2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and corresponding consumer-facing dietary guidance are also expected to be released soon.

When taken together, these three efforts, in addition to others, present an unprecedented opportunity to elevate new fruit and vegetable consumption behaviors as a collective priority for industry as well as civil society.

“Something must change if we want consumption to improve; the IYFV pronouncement serves to illuminate what PBH considers to be a global fruit and vegetable consumption crisis affecting our culture, society and economy as well as our health as global citizens. The time to come together and act is now.” states Reinhardt Kapsak.

PBH is proud to be a member of the Global Alliance to Promote Fruits and Vegetables Consumption “5 A Day” (“AIAM5”), a nonprofit forum of 39 national and international entities from 32 countries around the world, jointly working to foster the consumption of fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and enhance global health.

PBH is honored to represent the U.S. as part of AIAM5 and recently signed on to the group’s collective declaration to advance the IYFV. Within the framework of the 9th General Assembly of members of the Global Alliance to Promote Fruits and Vegetables Consumption “5 a day” (“AIAM5”), held virtually on November the 26th 2020, the attending 35 representatives from 26 national and international entities as full and collaborative members, from 22 countries, agreed that:

1. AIAM5 members support the declaration in the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly of year 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV);

2. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, fruits and vegetables play a very relevant role in this regard, as they improve nutrition and health status due to their content of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals, acting as protection factors for NCD and as a cornerstone of immune function; and

3. AIAM5 is committed and willing to work eagerly to help their members to facilitate those countries where they operate to achieve the goals of the IYFV expected to have an impact in reducing hunger and poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, improving livelihoods, and contributing to better natural resource management for healthier and more sustainable food systems.

For more information on IYFV and/or to register for the launch event (Tuesday, December 15th), click here. 

About the Produce for Better Health Foundation
Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), a nonprofit 501(c)(3), is the only national organization dedicated to helping consumers live happier, healthy lives by eating more fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice, every single day.

Since 1991, PBH has invested decades into developing trended insights on attitudes toward all forms of fruit and vegetable consumption, in addition to campaigns and partnerships with government, food industry stakeholders, health professionals and other thought leaders to collaborate, facilitate and advocate for increased intake. Campaigns included first, the 5-A-Day program, and then, the Fruits & Veggies—More Matters public health initiative. While five fruits and vegetables each day is great advice, and more will always matter, PBH’s new behavior-based call-to-action is Have A Plant®. Rooted in behavioral science, PBH’s transformative Have A Plant® Movement is an invitation that will inspire people with compelling reasons to believe in the powerful role fruits and vegetables can play to create happy, healthy and active lives.

By Produce Blue Book


During the lockdown in March, the demand for oranges went through the roof; a market development from which the southern hemisphere benefited the most. Towards the end of the year, the market in Europe and North America has stabilized and the demand is not as high as a few months ago. This slowdown in the demand has been a cause for disappointment in Spain, where they had initially expected the high demand to be maintained. In North America, many wholesalers appear cautious about purchasing due to the uncertainty in the market. The sale of oranges in China is also not going great. The demand has declined, causing prices to fall.

Netherlands: Limited supply of large sizes
According to a Dutch importer, there is currently a good demand for oranges; however, sales of juicing oranges in particular have slowed down due to the closure of the catering sector. Still, the sale of oranges for fresh consumption is booming. There is still some overseas production on the shelves and that is currently hampering the demand for Spanish Salustianas a bit. Probably a price issue, because the Spanish Salustianas easily reach 11, 12 or 13 Euro. Furthermore, there’s a limited supply of large sizes.

Belgium: Stable demand for oranges on the market
The citrus season is going smoothly, says a Belgian trader. There’s a plentiful supply this year, as the weather during the Spanish growing season was good; therefore, the trader expects there to be enough supply this year to meet the demand. The quality of the Spanish citrus is also good. The first Salustianas have arrived and the quality is satisfactory. Also, the Cara Cara season in Sicily has kicked off again. The demand for oranges is currently at a normal level. It is no longer as high as during the first lockdown, but it is a lot more stable.

Germany: Colder weather favorable for orange sales
In the German market, Spanish Navelinas have a dominant position. Italian Navels are also increasingly present, as are Portuguese Navelinas and Newhall. Greek and Turkish Navelinas are mainly traded to supplement the supply. South African products are also present here and there.

The sudden arrival of winter weather is very favorable for citrus sales. The supply and the demand are in balance across the board. The blood orange season has just started with the first Tarococs from Italy, and the first Cara Caras from Spain are also already available in German wholesalers.

In the long run, Spain’s dominance as the largest supplier of oranges only seems to increase. In recent years, the annual export volume to Germany has fluctuated around 370,000 tons, with a peak in 2015 (401,714 tons). South Africa now seems to have outpaced Italy in the battle for second place (33,424 tons, compared to 26,340 tons in 2019). Besides these, only Greece, with a total export volume of 13,701 tons in 2019, still plays a significant role. Other countries with some trade here and there are France, Portugal, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Zimbabwe.

France: Lower demand than during first lockdown
Both Spain and Portugal are present on the French market. The season started a few weeks ago. With regard to the Portuguese production, the volumes are reasonably good, but the fruit sizes are smaller than last year. Quality wise, it is very good. Consumption in France is at a fairly normal level, much lower than in the first month of the lockdown in March.

Spain: High prospects for the season not yet fulfilled
The orange production in Spain is expected to remain stable (-1%) in this 2020/2021 season, although this varies by region. In the Valencia region, the production is expected to be 8 to 10% higher than last year, while in Andalusia, in La Vega de Guadalquivir, there’s a similar production of early oranges, and that of the late varieties is expected to fall by about 10% compared to last year.

According to various sources in the Spanish sector, the citrus season is not meeting the expectations set after the end of the previous campaign, when there was sky-high demand, a limited supply and high prices. “This summer, many Spanish companies started buying the product at origin earlier than usual, hoping that there would still be a high demand for citrus fruits due to the coronavirus,” said a Valencian marketer. “To avoid running out of produce, many exporters have paid high prices for the fruit in the field, but the truth is that the market has not responded as expected. It has been very difficult to sell the fruit at acceptable prices, given what was paid in the field,” he said. It should also be noted that production and processing costs are higher due to the pandemic.

One of the reasons for these not so high prices is the small size of the fruits; however, the recent rains are expected to help in the growth of late orange varieties such as the Lane Late and Valencia Late, which will start to be harvested around February.

The orange market appears to be more stable than the mandarin one, although the growth in both the national and international supply has taken a toll on current prices. “The situation was reasonably good until the end of October/beginning of November, but from mid-November things have become more difficult because there are already too many players on the market. Italy now also has its own production, which means that that market is no longer accessible. Turkey, Egypt and Greece have also launched their campaigns very aggressively,” says another exporter.

Orange prices could improve on the European markets by the end of January, as that is when exporters will be able to ship more oranges outside the EU. This season, exporters won’t have to deal with the serious difficulties to export they faced last season due to the coronavirus outbreak, so shipments to third countries such as China are expected to recover, helping bring balance to the supply and demand in Europe. However, Spanish exporters are keeping a watchful eye on Egyptian citrus, as sales around the world continue to grow.

Besides all this, there is also the matter of Brexit. From January 1, 2021, the UK will be able to impose tariffs on Spanish oranges, while its competitors in the Northern Hemisphere (Morocco, Egypt and Turkey) and those in the off-season (South Africa) will enjoy zero rates thanks to the signing of preferential agreements with the United Kingdom. The UK is the third largest market for Spanish citrus, after Germany and France.

Italy: Sales are going well; many blood oranges on the market
The Italian orange season kicked off in November with the regular sweet oranges. In most Italian regions, the current season is marked by a predominance of small sizes which has brought prices down.

The supply of Sicilian blood oranges (Tarocco nucellare, Moro, Tarocco Ippolito, Sciara, Meli and TDV varieties) is plentiful. Achieving good sales this season will depend on many factors: the quality of the production (which is good this year), the weather conditions and the market dynamics, with the processing industry there to absorb the surplus of small fruit. Currently, the price at origin of blood oranges, depending on the size, ranges between 0.35 and 0.60 Euro / kg, while the prices for ordinary oranges are stable at between 0.30 and 0.35 Euro / kg.

Small to medium-sized oranges can also be found in Apulia, as reported by a trader from Massafra, Taranto. “Prices are higher than those of clementines, with about 0.20 Euro / kg. Sizes 6 and 4 are among the most demanded. The 2020/21 campaign has not yet fully started, but sales, although limited, are currently going well.”

Egypt: Exports important for the Egyptian coronavirus market recovery
Egypt’s exports to the European Union are expected to increase, largely due to the projected increase in the demand for citrus. The Egyptian orange export markets will remain the same as in previous years. Exports normally go first to the Arab countries, then to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, and finally to the European Union and East Asian countries. They are also expanding into new markets, such as Japan, New Zealand and Brazil. The three most popular oranges are the Navels, the Baladi oranges for juicing and the Valencia, the “king of citrus fruits”. The Egyptians claim that the Spanish are struggling this year, which means they see many opportunities to become the alternative to Spanish oranges. Prices currently seem reasonable, but are expected to rise as the season develops. Egyptian orange exporters believe that the orange campaign will help in the recovery from the impact of the coronavirus.”

South Africa: A lot more exports to Europe this year
The latest South African orange season has been excellent. Ultimately, 52.4 million boxes (15 kg) of Valencia oranges were packed this year. 42% of these went to Europe (37% in 2019). Southeast Asia and the Middle East both accounted for 16%.

Navel exports are estimated at 26.2 million boxes, compared to 22.76 million in the previous season. 36% of those exports were intended for Europe (28% in 2019), 21% for the Middle East and 14% for the North American market. Exports to Southeast Asia fell from 20% in 2019 to 12% last season.

United States: Reluctant purchasing from food service and wholesalers
The domestic supply of oranges is good at the moment and is improving as the season progresses. Oranges currently come mostly from California, Texas and Florida, with some small import volumes from Mexico. Chilean and South African competitors have now disappeared from the market, although they continued for longer than usual and were still on the market in October.

The demand for oranges is stable and around this time growers in California are also getting ready to start packing for export. Nevertheless, traders feel that wholesalers and the food service sector are reluctant to place orders. Prices are currently slightly higher than last year and stable, although freight costs in the domestic market have also increased. This is affecting FOB values ​​somewhat. Volumes from Florida are currently entering the East Coast market. Just like in the west, prices are stable, but subject to ups and downs. For example, the demand for juicing oranges in the retail sector in particular has fallen due to the measures against the coronavirus implemented by stores. Nevertheless, the demand is expected to increase in the coming weeks as the more popular varieties, such as the Valencia, also hit the market.

China: Lower demand for citrus at the moment
Most oranges imported into the Chinese market come from Australia and South Africa, with the latter dominating. The import volume of Australian oranges is relatively small and the quality and the prices are higher. There’s a greater supply of oranges from South Africa at a lower price, but these are also less popular on the market. The demand for these oranges comes mainly from the food and drink industry. There are also some volumes from the US, but these have been reduced due to the US-Chinese trade war.

Due to the coronavirus, the sale of imported fruit is falling and that of domestic fruit is increasing. However, the overall situation of the citrus market in China is not very good, so the price continues to fall. Chilean citrus has recently entered the Chinese market. Imports from Australia have been reduced due to the difficult customs clearance procedure and the high risks for importers. There is also a domestic production of Chinese Navels, but due to abundant rainfall, the harvest is quite poor this year in South China. This also applies to the Gannan Navel from the south of the country.

Australia and New Zealand: Commotion over soft drink rating system in the citrus sector
The Australian citrus industry is concerned about the proposal of a Health Star Rating system that could give diet drinks a higher rating than 100% fresh Australian orange juice, as this would ultimately affect the fruit’s sales. The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Food Regulation Forum will review the issue and make a final decision in February. However, six Australian State and Territory Ministers and the New Zealand government want to introduce this sugar content rating system. Citrus Australia welcomed the forthcoming review, after opposing the opinion of the majority of Ministers.

Hort Innovation statistics show that in the year that ended in June 2019, Australia produced 528,095 tons worth AUD 398.8 million (246.5 million Euro). Exports stood at 188,056 tons worth 308.1 million AUD (190.3 million Euro). 41% of the total fresh orange production went to processing, mainly to the juice industry.

According to the latest edition of Fresh Facts, published annually by Plant & Food Research and Horticulture New Zealand, the country had 183 orange growers in 2019 who produced 13,342 tons on ​​783 hectares. The domestic value in the 2018/19 season was NZD 18 million (€ 10.5 million), with an export value of NZD 1.7 million (€ 1 million) in 2019.

By FreshPlaza

Congestion In Chinese Ports Causes Cargo Ships To Divert To Hong Kong

The Chinese port authorities have once again implemented strict measures to stop the spread of Covid-19. Many Chinese ports are congested as a result of this decision. Cargo ships with import products, especially those carrying perishable products such as fruit, therefore divert to Hong Kong.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong Sea Port Alliance (HKSPA) stated that Hong Kong is the main beneficiary of the bottleneck in Chinese ports. Hong Kong port offers unobstructed access to refrigerated shipping container terminals. The HKSPA works closely together with shipping companies to offload the shipping containers and help shipping companies maintain their schedule.

According to the HKSPA, fruit trade in Hong Kong port increased by 5% in the first half of 2020, but the trade in dried fruit declined by 3%. The volume of fresh fruit and vegetables that passes through Hong Kong port on an annual basis is worth nearly 3 billion USD. Almost 60% of that trade volume is transshipped to mainland China.

The HKSPA has installed more than 7,800 terminals for refrigerated shipping containers. That is twice the size of Huanan port. The Hong Kong port facilities help speed up transportation and guarantee that import fruit is quickly on its way to the destination market.

By FreshPlaza