Trade and labor used to top the concern list for Florida’s specialty crop growers. Not anymore. The biggest concerns now are input prices and availability, says Mike Joyner, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA) president.
Joyner reports that in talking to growers in the field, he has heard of fertilizer costs doubling – if growers can even get it. “The other issue is where they used to have a turnaround time of a few days, it may be months … President Biden in February had an executive order that said we want to hear what changes we can make. We (FFVA) submitted a letter, and it included things like making ag products a priority when they come into the port. Yes, medical supplies should be a priority, but agriculture should be, too.”
Pallet prices spiked earlier this year amid supply shortages. So did freight expenses amid driver shortages. Diesel prices continue to rise. What is alarming is the costs do not appear to be improving.
“It’s discouraging because I don’t know that there’s a silver bullet right now,” says Joyner. “You make port workers work 24 hours a day. That just doesn’t seem to be helping,” Joyner said. “I spoke to a citrus grower the other day. He made 40 phone calls to get a container to ship grapefruit overseas and never got it … In years past, he’d make one phone call and have the container.”
Joyner also points to the concerns created by the ongoing John Deere strike. While growers may be able to hold off on buying a new tractor, getting the parts they need for repairs may be a problem.
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