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Supply Chain Delays Disrupt California Tree Nut Exports

MANTECA (CBS) -- One of California's most valuable agricultural commodities, tree nuts, are not immune to the supply chain chaos impacting California ports and beyond.

Right now, obtaining shipping containers and getting bookings with shipping companies to get commodities like walnuts, pistachios and almonds takes time and more money than it has in years before.

"Last season I was paying $2,200 per container, now you're seeing prices close to like $5,000 or $6,000 per container," said Desiree Silva, vice president of Business Operations at California Valley Nut Company.

Silva said she could typically have 10 containers at her facility to load with walnuts and take to the Port of Oakland. Now, she said, she's lucky on days when she can get one or two.

Two truckloads of walnuts were headed out of the Yuba City headquarters of California Valley Nut Company in the second week of November. However, the same product was first set to go out October 21. Silva explained, she's had 5 delays on this particular shipment because of port congestion or a lack of available containers.

"Because of the congestion of Southern California have opted to skip Oakland to head back to Asia to save some time in their schedules," said Andrew Hwang, Manager of Maritime Business Development and International Marketing at the Port of Oakland.

Hwang said the Port of Oakland is adding new direct routes to Asia to alleviate some of the backups at other California ports.

On the almond side of the tree nut industry, exports aren't moving as quickly as they should be.

"We should pack for every opportunity because every opportunity that is lost doesn't come again," said David Phippen with Travaille and Phippen, Inc. This third-generation almond-farming family business has expanded over the years from growing to include packing and shipping, too.

He said he used to worry about marketing, whether or not there would be a market for the commodity -- not being able to ship to people who want almonds, not something on his radar, typically. The last year hasn't been typical and the supply chain disruptions have caused disruptions to Phippen's day-to-day.

Warehouses that should have products moving through quickly, now, are stored with boxes of almonds ready to ship. That causes issues with storage because it's not the most effective use of space -- so while the warehouses look full, they could hold more.

Luckily, Phippen said, almonds are stable for up to two years. That doesn't mean he wants to keep that product for the period of time, but that he can -- and won't lose money on product if it goes undelivered this season.

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