The matter of Chilean and Peruvian fruit seasons created serious problems in Philadelphia-area seaports over the last two wintertime fruit seasons, particularly early in 2022.

With late harvest periods, Peruvian fruit volumes, which routinely arrive in December and January, docked in Philadelphia in February and March 2022. These are the months “when Chile was going at full speed,” notes Peter Kopke, Sr., president of the fruit import company, Wm. H. Kopke Jr., Inc., based in Great Neck, NY. Philadelphia port storage facilities were at maximum capacity and normally efficient fumigators were severely backed up.

Kopke cites a litany of issues making a perfect storm of problems early this year. The jam was acerbated by a substantial lack of fumigation space. Another key factor was West Coast port congestion. Anticipating delays, Peruvian shippers diverted volumes to the Delaware River, instead of Pacific ports. This coming season, that unexpected volume will not likely arrive. “That will relieve pressure here,” he said.

Eric Coty, vice president of South American operations for the Vancouver, BC-based importer and marketer Oppy, similarly indicated, “A significant challenge for the market last season centered around containers. Heavy container arrivals came from the east, starting with Peru and continuing through the Chilean season. A sustained bottleneck at the eastern arrival ports led to delays in processing and release of container shipments.”

Coty continued, “There have been many learnings from ongoing transportation issues, so while we do expect improvements in some areas, we also anticipate new challenges, and our skilled team is ready to adapt.”

Kopke feels the new cooler space under construction in the Delaware Valley is inadequate for upcoming demand.

Asked if this massive jam could happen again, Leo Holt of Holt Logistics, Gloucester City, NJ, responds: “It could, but other factors are helping. Many of the workforce issues that plagued the supply chain since COVID has been at the source of picking, packing, origin transportation, and at ports of entry throughout the world. It has been a universal issue in all hemispheres. The good news is that it is also subsiding. Therefore, the coming seasonal fruit surges into the United States should not be as affected.”

Holt added, “Obviously if shippers determine to blast a market with massive volumes and have neither infrastructure nor firm programs contracted to take these volumes then the supply chain will experience delays. Therefore, close coordination and cooperation are crucial to a successful flow.”