Agricultural producers face more transportation problems due to the challenges of trucking. The cost of shipping has increased steadily over the past year. Additionally, there are reports of global trucking shortages compounding the problem. Agricultural exporters have struggled to cope with general transportation problems in recent months. Congestion at US ports and the limited availability of shipping containers made it difficult to get agricultural products to export markets.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that trucking rates continue to rise. According to the latest Truck Tariff Report, shipping rates for getting agricultural products from California to other markets were among the highest in the country. Shipping rates for lettuce and other cruciferous vegetables from Santa Maria are as high as $ 11,100 when shipped to destinations such as Boston and New York. Rates for the same 48- to 53-foot refrigerated containers reflected a high of $ 10,400 less than two weeks earlier.
Refrigerated spot rates for product exiting the Kern District, Oxnard District, Salinas-Watsonville, Santa Maria, and Southern District range from $ 8,724 to $ 11,829 on average. For comparison, the most expensive spot rate for farm produce leaving California last year around this time was $ 6,900. USDA Fruit and Vegetable Truck Rates Report for May 4 takes into account various types of cruciferous vegetables, carrots, strawberries, citrus fruits, avocados, celery and several types of lettuce.
All five of California’s regions detailed in the report are experiencing truck shortages, adding another layer to the overall trucking challenges. Shortages are also recorded in Florida and Louisiana, as well as parts of North Carolina and Washington. Slight shortages are also seen in parts of Georgia, Idaho and Texas. Much of the shortage of available trucks is due to a shortage of drivers. Some of the potential causes have been listed as fears related to COVID-19, unemployment benefits and stimulus money, and competition with other job opportunities.