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Market update: Record port backlogs, blueberries, cucumbers and tomatoes

Supply chain woes are making headlines once again. The continuing high truck rates and the lack of available drivers, along with winter weather, consumer stockpiling, and the spike in virus rates caused by the Omicron variant, are all being cited as contributing factors in empty store shelves being seen across the country. In addition, port backlogs are at an all-time high, with a record 105 ships reported to be awaiting berthing spots for unloading at Southern California ports and a total of 146 ships waiting outside all major U.S. ports, according to the USDA.

Mexican blueberry crossings through Arizona, California and Texas movement are expected to increase. The USDA report said trading was active to very active at higher prices, due to limited competition from Chilean fruit. Quality and condition of Mexican berries is reported as variable. Movement of Chilean imports of blueberries via boat through both various East Coast and West Coast ports of entry is expected to increase as harvesting increases in Chile, with current supplies in too few hands to establish a market for both coasts.

Overall fewer Chilean blueberries are making their way to U.S. markets than usual. There are reports that shipments are being delayed by labor shortages in Chile and held up in inspections, as well as diverted to other countries. Movement of Peruvian imports of blueberries arriving through both the Philadelphia and New York City areas and through Southern California ports via boat is expected to decrease as the season nears its end.

Cucumber movement from Mexico crossings through Nogales, AZ, is expected to increase. Trading was fairly active at much higher prices. Supplies remain fairly heavy with moderate demand as buyers continue purchase only what is needed to fill orders. Shippers remain optimistic that demand will improve, as most present shipments are from prior bookings or previous commitments at lower prices. 

Movement of Mexican cucumber crossings through Texas is expected to increase slightly. Trading was moderate early and active later with demand improving to moderate. Prices were much higher, though quality is reported as variable. Movement of cucumbers via boat out of Central America into South Florida ports expected to increase slightly but remain light and sporadic as movement is hampered by vessel and container delays.

Tomato movement out of central and south Florida is expected to increase. Prices were higher and supplies lighter on larger sizes leading to stronger demand for those sizes and fairly light demand on smaller sizes. Movement of Mexico tomato crossings through Texas is expected to increase slightly. High truck rates and limited availability continue to affect movement and F.O.B. prices.

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