'Acute' pallet shortages putting fresh produce supply at risk in North America
An "acute" pallet shortage in North America is creating significant challenges for the fresh produce supply chain, according to United Fresh.
The organization believes that many do not yet realize the factors impacting the situation and the potential scope of the issue, including the availability of fresh produce to consumers.
The supply chain is already seeing a lack of available trucks and shipping containers, ongoing labor challenges, fluctuating fuel costs, pandemic-related challenges and a pending shortage of resin used to make reusable containers and pallets.
According to United Fresh, various issues are impacting pallet availability including efforts to ensure sufficient inventory of non-perishables, lumber availability, the rising price of lumber and the lack of available trucks to relocate pallets.
Expectations are that the pallet shortage will continue for months and at a time when many North American produce items are just beginning seasonal harvests and shipments.
To give a sample of the scope of the issue, United Fresh has shared that the shortage of lumber and wood products has increased the cost of raw lumber 200% to 350% and is making the cost of wood pallets increase incrementally.
It was also reported that companies are bringing pallets from other jurisdictions thereby incurring border and transportation costs. In other cases, pallets are being held in-house due to delayed and canceled orders from pallet services, leading to higher storage charges and increased congestion within operations.
United Fresh said that by working together the supply chain must balance organizational goals relative to the overall availability of goods with the availability of food.
"If there is not a concerted effort across the supply chain to ensure pallet availability for shipment of produce, there is little doubt that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for the grower/shipper community to meet buyer, and ultimately consumer, demand for produce," the press release stated.
Simultaneously, growers and shippers are working hard to remain compliant with pallet requirement specifications where they can, but this is proving challenging. Temporary modifications or exceptions to pallet requirements, as long as they do not jeopardize safety, would prove advantageous until this pallet shortage is resolved, United Fresh said.
The organization stated that all partners in the supply chain should have regular conversations with their pallet suppliers to understand the situation and pallet inventories and availability.