Days of protests and civil unrest across several U.S. cities have led to new logistical challenges for produce shippers in moving product.
“The first direct business interruption was this past Monday. We had three containers that we couldn’t get out of the Port of Miami,” says Peter Leifermann with Brooks Tropicals LLC in Homestead, Fl. “The citywide curfew meant drivers and port employees had to go home early.” He does add that to date, Port Everglades and Miami International Airport are still operating under “COVID-normal” conditions and Brooks’ nationwide deliveries have not been affected.
Over at Riverbend Fresh LLC in Kerman, Ca., Dennis Peterson says he’s finding trucks to be an issue. “Some of the trucks are hesitant to run into some of these areas. We paid basically $1,000 more for a truck out of the desert yesterday to go to Portland, OR. Some wanted more than that,” says Peterson.
He notes that in the meantime Riverbend is working on loading other trucks. “But we’ve got trucks not even looking at our postings here unless the money is not more than what it normally would be. Everything’s up.”
Urban hotspots on watch
Peterson adds that cities are the major hotspots for drivers to deliver to including Oakland, CA, Portland, OR and Pittsburgh, PA.
This is also presuming there are stores to deliver to. “One of my Oakland customers was going to take melons but he’s going to wait a couple of days,” says Peterson. “Some of the stores that he sells them to, the independents, some of them are boarded up and closed until this goes away. So it’s affecting demand too.”
Leifermann is finding the same thing. “There are certainly some store locations, especially in urban areas, that are fully closed or have limited hours,” he says. “But there’s not been a substantial negative effect to demand a result of that…as of yet.”
Indeed, it’s a bit of a wait and see for shippers. “I’m hoping that this is just a week. We’ll wait and see,” says Peterson.
“If the situation remains aggravated, as opposed to peaceful and non-combative, I would expect a more significant decrease in demand,” adds Leifermann. “It’s interesting that we’re considered an “essential industry” when faced with a deadly pandemic. But not when people want to express their freedoms and assembly and speech.”