All those news clips about large container ships waiting offshore for a berth to unload only tell half the story. There are just as many logistics concerns for the U.S. export market, which hit a two-year high in July and is expected to grow over the next three years.
The import market grabs most of the headlines each time a new record-breaking number of ships are backlogged, forcing retailers to wait to get goods on their shelves. Exporters face their own challenges, some as a result of the import bottlenecks. As many as two-thirds of containers are empty when they leave California ports for Asia to reload on imported goods, leaving exporters to compete for fewer containers and fewer vessels sailing to their critical markets across the globe.
According to an informal survey by the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, these transit issues have cost agricultural exporters 22% of sales. The National Milk Producers Federation claims “continually rolled bookings, unprecedented shipping rates, product deterioration, and high detention and demurrage fees have cost American dairy exporters nearly $1 billion” through July.
The troubles of exporters go beyond products waiting for an empty container.
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