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California growers hit by Coronavirus crippling global shipping

The Coronavirus shut down much of China’s industry earlier this year, which means far fewer cargo containers have been sailing for American ports than usual. As a result, there’s a staggering shortage of empty containers available for shipping wine and other commodities to California’s farm customers.

This disruption of worldwide cargo shipping, results in the coronavirus pandemic creating major headaches for California’s $50 billion-a-year farming industry.

From rice to pistachios to oranges, farm exporters said they’ve been struggling to get their hands on empty cargo containers needed for shipping goods to international markets.

“You don’t have the empties to go back,” said Jessica Brady, a marketing officer in the Benicia office of Hillebrand, a German shipping company that exports California wine through the Port of Oakland. “You don’t get the containers that you can reuse.”

The coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a pandemic Wednesday by the World Health Organization, has struck the shipping industry to a degree never seen before. A record 2 million containers were idle in late February, according to the Wall Street Journal.


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