U.S.: high season port strikes would mean 'big losses' for importers

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U.S.: high season port strikes would mean 'big losses' for importers

U.S. fresh fruit importers are worried costs will skyrocket if the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) follows through with threats to strike next month at 14 ports along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

Key ports in Florida on the Gulf Coast and Staten Island, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware on the East Coast could come to a standstill from Oct. 1 if industrial action happens.

New York-based Baldor Speciality Foods purchasing director Lou Terrulli, said a strike would affect pricing and result in major disruption for a range of fresh fruit imports

"We are on the cusp of melon imports from Central America. It will be less supply and greater demand. If we have to fly fruit in to compensate then the costs will be astronomical."

In addition to air freighting, other possibilities would be to receive fruit in Texas and truck it over, which Terrulli said would affect the bottom line badly.

His company also imports bananas all year round from Ecuador and Guatemala, and Golden pineapples from Costa Rica.

"If I import about three containers a week of pineapples, each containing 1,500 cases, and at some point they aren't available then that's a large sales loss."

He added that Chile's grape exports, which are usually shipped at the beginning of October, would be badly hit too.

A.J. Trucco Inc. president Salvatore Vacca, said 50% of his company's business comprised imports and a possible port strike would mean a big loss.

"The chesnut season is approaching and it's a big item for us that starts at the beginning of October. Maybe we will have to bring in some by air and you can imagine what the cost will be."

Trucco is based in New York importing US$8 million of fruit a year from Europe and grapes, citrus and apples from Chile, as well as kiwifruit and apples from New Zealand. It supplies the wholesale market as well as a string of chain stores across the U.S.

The International Longshoremans Association (ILA) is unhappy that employers' body the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) is proposing to withdraw the eight-hour guarantee and change contractural rules for overtime pay.

ILA and USMX normally start negotiating workers' annual contract from Aug. 22 but USMX's chief executive officer Jim Capo's announcement he wanted to change key conditions have left the two organizations at loggerheads.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) announced on Friday the union and USMX would meet on Monday, Sep. 17 to see if a deal could be hammered out before the existing contract expires on Sep. 30 .

Both ILA and USMX were unavailable to comment at the time of going to press.


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