Mango shippers say they’re looking at relatively affordable rates throughout the 2010 season.
Not that there aren’t always some logistical hurdles.
South American shippers, in particular, feel the pressure of getting their product to market.
“That’s our big challenge, always, because of our distance,” said Flavio Muranaka, owner of Amexport in Petrolina, Brazil. “U.S. regulations to load and send containers of mangoes takes about 20 days to be available for consumption. Due to that, we can only ship our best quality to assure a good arrival at destination.”
For shippers who await product grown closer to U.S. markets, the ride this year should be less bumpy, said Michael Warren, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce.
“It was stabilized last summer and it’s been pretty stable since, but I don’t see much of an impact on that,” he said of the trucking and fuel situations. “If anything, fuel prices were even lower last summer and last spring than they are today, so I don’t see any effect.”
Congress is currently considering legislation that would allow trucks running on U.S. roads to increase their weight limits from the current 80,000 pounds to 97,000. It’s a move supported by much of the produce industry, including mango shippers.
“I think that will make a difference on all produce because most trucks will weigh out before they fill up,” Warren said.
Perhaps equally important, it should serve as a salve on the seemingly eternal worries about the ability to procure trucks, Warren added.
“Truck prices are more affected by availability than anything,” he said.
A number of shippers said they don’t expect truck shortages during the peak shipping season this summer, as opposed to the summer of 2008, when sky-high fuel prices forced many independent operators to park their rigs.
“Mangoes are grown in tropical areas, so those, by their very nature and definition, are not as close to U.S. markets a other commodities,” said Tony Godinez, owner of Godinez International LLC and FreshRite LLC in Hidalgo, Texas. “Trucking is still the most cost-effective and fastest way to bring that product to the U.S. market.”
Stabilized fuel prices will translate to a more stable mango market, Godinez added.
“Certainly the stabilization of fuel costs helps producers and distributors keep a bead on what that cost is,” he said. “But it’s not really and issue, and it doesn’t make mangoes cost-prohibitive. It’s still the most cost-effective way to get the product here.”
Volatile freight rates have proven to be a hazard to the mango business in the past, said Greg Golden, sales manager and co-owner of Amazon Produce Network, Mullica Hill, N.J.
“The last time there was the big price spike, it made LTL (less than truckload) kind of hard to come by, and prices were really high,” he said. “But over the past year, we’ve seen it relatively calm. We have steady carriers.”
Chris Ciruli, a partner with Nogales, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros. LLC, said there actually has been a “deflation” in freight rates.
“It’s still definitely a cost of doing business, but it’s something we have enough freight out there to make it work and you’re not seeing the short fuse that you saw 18 months ago,” he said.
(Note on correction: The article originally had the name of FreshRite LLC incorrect.)