Smaller U.S. West Coast ports, including the Ports of Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma are experiencing ocean carrier service cutbacks that are adversely impacting U.S. agricultural exporters, according to Paul Snell, president of Huntington Beach, CA-based British-American Shipping.
The export situation is likely to remain challenging for the remainder of 2022, Snell said.
California Exporters Lost $2.1 billion in 2021
Snell was speaking to the Propeller Club of Northern California on April 19th.
In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that final 2021 trade data showed that exports of U.S. farm and food products totaled $177 billion, topping the 2020 total by 18 percent.
However, in 2021, California agricultural exporters lost $2.1 billion partly due to California port operations and high import freight rates, according to a University of California at Davis and University of Connecticut report.
The report explained: “We found that containerized agricultural exports from California ports were $2.1 billion (or 17%) below their counterfactual level due to port congestion between May and September 2021. California farmers bore the brunt of these losses, with tree nuts, wine, rice, and dairy products suffering significant economic damages. The annualized economic impact is by far larger than that of the 2018 U.S.-China trade war, which caused economic losses of about $500 million to California agriculture.”
The report said that 97,000 fewer export containers shipped in 2021 contributing to the $2.1 billion loss: “California ports handled about 97,000 fewer container exports (measured in TEUs) loaded with agricultural products compared to the counterfactual scenario. This amounts to $2.1 billion in lost foreign sales.”
The report entitled “Containergeddon” and California Agriculture partly blames inefficiencies at California ports for the losses: “The lost farm exports mirror the fact that California ports are among the least efficient in the world. As a result, some importers now view California as an unreliable supplier of agricultural products due to inferior port infrastructure.”
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