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Almond Byte, June 2022: Transportation Update, MRL Conference and Pakistan Ban


Transportation-Logistics Update

The Almond Alliance, along with other agricultural export leaders, has met with significant ocean carriers such as CMA/CGM, OOCL, MAERSK, the Ports of LA, LB, and Oakland, and railroads - UP & BNSF, to find immediate solutions to current industry shipping logjams. Using ABC data, the Almond Alliance was able to show that there is the demand to warrant alternatives to shipping out of the Port of Oakland.

As a result of these meetings, the Alliance was able to bring the parties together to offer a viable alternative. The new route would have shippers directly book with the ocean carrier OOCL for drop-off at the Oakland ramp. The product would be railed directly to LA/LB for final loading and shipment to various Asian markets (currently, service to India is not being offered). Concurrently, an additional rail service from the Central Valley directly to LA/LB is under development.

More information on that rail service will be provided as details become available. Additional information will be released by the Almond Alliance. Visit their website here to stay up to date.

Additionally, the gridlock surrounding the Ocean Shipping Reform Act in Congress is expected to be resolved in the next few weeks. The House is planning on taking up the version of the Bill passed by the Senate earlier this year. While this version does not include as strong of provisions that bar carriers from “unreasonably” declining export bookings, it includes stronger provisions related to reining in detention and demurrage fees.

MRL Conference Highlights More Challenges for Ag

Industry members attending the annual Minor Crops MRL Conference discussed challenges related to import tolerances, risk assessments and sustainable ag production. Increasing efforts to define “sustainable” food chains and acceptable processes and production methods will impact not only producers but also ag trade. It was highlighted that consumers generally do not appreciate the importance of chemical tools in mitigating food loss in the field resulting from insect pressures, drought, etc. – which impacts developing countries.

Concern was expressed over the need for expedited approvals and reviews for chemical tools, to reduce the burden on industry and agency reviews. It was pointed out that about 14% of global noncompliance would “go away” if science-based Codex MRLs were followed. A presenter from Mexico raised awareness that there is a number of shifts in how pesticides are to be regulated within Mexico. Those shifts include a ban on imports of glyphosate thus precluding its use by Mexican growers, along with efforts to increase organic production and reduce pesticide use within Mexico.

To date, it’s not clear if these changes will impact MRLs and thus imports, but if the outlined changes take effect, then Mexican growers will likely push for import MRL changes.

Pakistan Bans Imports of Almonds

On May 19, Pakistan announced a formal import ban on various products, including agricultural products, in an effort to lower its trade deficit and preserve foreign currency reserves. Imports of nearly all products under Chapter 08, including almonds and all other nuts, are banned. In 2021, the U.S. exported 2,714 MT of shelled almonds and 1,698 MT of in-shell almonds to Pakistan.

More information can be found in a recent USDA GAIN report. ABC staff are following up with USDA/FAS offices in Pakistan and USTR.