California Fresh Fruit Association's Ian LeMay Discusses Supply Chain Issues as Port Problems Mount
FRESNO, CA - The team at AndNowUKnow continues to connect with fresh produce operators as we take stock of the current global supply chain crisis. I touched base with Ian LeMay, President of California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA), to understand his perspective on how this situation affects our industry.
“The logjam at the ports has had a significant disruption, and a significant market loss, for the fresh produce industry,” Ian begins. “We’re dealing with a perishable commodity, so the minute we remove it from the vine or the tree, the clock starts ticking against it in terms of freshness and quality. To get that product to a premium market, which oftentimes are those overseas, we need to have reliability through the ports and the shipping systems.”
As an industry, we have the responsibility to deliver the product we committed to. The certainty needed to move fruit through the supply chain regrettably isn’t there for many CFFA members.
“That has resulted in a loss of trading opportunities this season, which is extremely unfortunate, as our industry is continuing to process through a global pandemic. That not only had cost elements in terms of how they’ve operated their business, but it was at the same time that we saw increases in demand from the consumer wanting to access healthy products. If we can’t get fruit to those consumers, then it’s a lost opportunity,” Ian continues.
Another piece of the puzzle for many of the commodities that CFFA represents, the growers are not the only ones producing those commodities globally.
“For many of the markets we’ve previously accessed, if we aren’t able to deliver product to them, another country will. That is a huge loss for the United States in the sense that when you lose a market, you don’t just lose it for a season. You lose it until the person who has filled that market has their own disruption,” Ian adds. “It’s troublesome for our members and really all fresh produce growers across the United States.”
California growers in particular take great pride in delivering premium products across the globe. As Ian emphasizes, that’s incredibly valuable and why many are able to grow such high-quality goods.
“But if we can’t get the premium dollar on the international market because we can’t get through our own ports, that’s a big problem,” he remarks.
As the Port of Los Angeles works toward a 24/7 operation, Ian comments that this is part of a timely conversation for our nation to have—especially as Congress currently debates the infrastructure bill.
“We need to get serious about our infrastructure and our needs as a society regarding how we export and import our goods,” Ian concludes. “And the reality is the U.S. consumer has a high demand for foreign products. But vice versa, we have a lot of high-quality products in the produce industry that are in high demand in foreign markets and need a level of certainty to export through the ports. So, the national debate over infrastructure is imperative.”
As we continue to keep an eye on the global supply chain crisis, keep your eyes tuned to AndNowUKnow.