The port congestion and trucking shortage that have made it difficult – and in some cases just not possible – to ship U.S. ag commodities overseas will likely continue throughout 2022, according to a new analysis from RaboResearch, a division of Rabobank.

“The trade routes connecting Asia and North America were, and still are, the ones that were the most impacted by ship cancellations,” the report concludes. “As such, there is a bigger backlog of containers in U.S. ports than in the European main sea hubs. In this context, it is only normal that the Los Angeles-Long Beach port hub is overwhelmed and that, at present, attaining the objective of reducing the backlog while serving increased import flows from Asia seems to be a long shot at best.”

It’s Chinese exporters – desperate to meet pent-up demand for sneakers, furniture and all the other consumer goods in the U.S. – who are still creating most of the log jam at ports. And to meet that demand the Chinese exporters are paying extra to carriers so that they will return containers empty instead of loading them up with U.S. ag exports that need to be delivered throughout Asia.

Christmas is only making things worse.

“As we approach the holiday season, U.S. consumer demand keeps on expanding,” the report stressed.

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Even if U.S. shippers can get containers, they are paying extraordinary amounts and that’s not expected to change anytime soon. High prices are expected to remain elevated for the next six to 12 months and that includes refrigerated containers – known as reefers – which are in extremely high demand.

“Food trade managed to stay strong during the pandemic, with increasing volumes traded on a global scale,” says RaboResearch. “Yet it’s threatened by the reefer imbalance.”

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