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California Citrus Prices Dive As Port Labor Problems Keeps Product In U.S.

OAKLAND (KCBS)— It may take up to two months for the Port of Oakland to recover and resume a normal schedule now that operations at nearly all West Coast seaports resumed to normal on Monday. Still that's no consolation to local citrus growers, whose exports to Asia could become almost worthless.

It could take months for a tentative agreement to be approved by dockworkers, who hustled to load and unload cargo ships that were held up amid a nine month-long labor dispute.

The exception was at the Port of Oakland. Port spokesman Mike Zampa said nine ships are at berth ready for cranes to move cargo, but only one ship is being worked due to a temporary shortage of experienced crane operators.

Meanwhile, citrus growers from the Central Valley say the cargo backlog is really going to affect their bottom line.

The longer fruit sits in containers at the Port of Oakland, the worse it gets for the citrus growers.

"Before Friday, shippers had stopped attempting to export fruit because it was taking so long to get it there. That added more fruit to the domestic market, which has softened domestic prices," said Dusty Ference, director of grower services, with California Citrus Mutual (CCM).

He said total exports for California citrus works out to about $500,000 a year. Ference said due to the recent labor dispute, it will take much longer for oranges to reach foreign produce markets.

"This has a major impact on everybody involved. This is affecting not only the grower and the shipper, but this is affecting the harvesters, the folks working at the packing house, packing the fruit— all of their hours have been cut," he said.

CCM represents the majority of citrus growers in the agriculturally rich Central Valley.

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