Pallet shortage affects ag industry

Ag groups call for modifications or exceptions to pallet requirements.
Current pallet shortage expected to have a negative affect on ag producers

Current pallet shortages are a growing concern that could have a significant impact on growers of fresh fruits and vegetables. In an open letter released May 19, numerous ag organizations, including United Fresh Produce Association, Western Growers and others, outlined their concerns related to this shortage and called for temporary modifications or exceptions to pallet requirements.

The letter states that, “Although conversations are occurring within the North American (and global) industry relative to the current acute pallet shortages, we believe that many do not yet realize the factors impacting the situation and the potential scope of the issue, including the availability of produce to consumers.”

The following issues were presented as those impacting pallet availability including

  • efforts of wholesalers, distributors and retailers to ensure sufficient inventory of nonperishables given previous pandemic-related impacts.
  • the availability of lumber to repair and build new pallets.
  • the escalating price of lumber when it is available.
  • nonperishable inventory dwell time increase.
  • lack of available trucks to relocate pallets.

The organizations stressed that the lack of pallets is adding stress to a supply chain that is already facing significant challengeswhich include a lack of available trucks and shipping containers, ongoing labour challenges, fluctuating fuel costs, pandemic-related challenges and a pending shortage of resin used to make reusable containers and pallets. Expectations are that the pallet shortage will continue for months, perhaps for the balance of 2021, at a time when many North American produce items are just beginning seasonal harvests and shipments.

The letter includes a sample of the scope of the issue, compiling the following information:

  • 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.
  • In one example, it was noted that over the past few weeks, pallet costs have increased more than 400%, IF the pallets are even available, and often they are not.
  • One farmer was told by one pallet supplier that they are not taking any new customers due to an inability to fill even existing customer demand.
  • Companies are forced to bring pallets from other jurisdictions thereby incurring border and transportation costs.
  • Pallets are being held in-house due to delayed and cancelled orders from pallet services, leading to higher storage charges and increased congestion within operations.

“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 letter continues. “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.”

This letter is intended, in part, to act as a catalyst for industry awareness and to ensure a consistent understanding of the issue and to encourage discussions and efforts towards a path forward.

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