The growing wood pallet shortage threatens the availability of produce to consumers, reports the United Fresh Produce Association.
The lack of pallets is adding stress to a supply chain already facing significant challenges, it says. These include a lack of available trucks and shipping containers, ongoing labor challenges, fluctuating fuel costs, pandemic-related challenges and a pending shortage of resin used to make reusable containers and pallets.
“At this time, expectations are that the pallet shortage will continue for months, perhaps for the balance of 2021 – all at a time when many North American produce items are just beginning seasonal harvests and shipments,” UFPA predicts.
Pallet issues cited include a shortage of lumber and wood products that has increased the cost of raw lumber by 200% to 350%, and the cost of pallets in some cases by more than 400% — “if the pallets are even available, and often they are not,” UFPA says.
One farmer was told by a pallet supplier that it was not accepting any new customers because it simply couldn’t fill existing customer demand.
Also impacting the shortage are efforts by wholesalers, distributors and retailers to ensure sufficient inventory of non-perishables given previous pandemic-related impacts. Making matters worse is a lack of trucks for relocating pallets.
“If there is not a concerted effort across the supply chain to ensure pallet availability for shipment of produce, there is little doubt that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for the grower/shipper community to meet buyer, and ultimately consumer, demand for produce,” the association said.
“We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with all parties within the supply chain to mitigate the impacts of the current shortages and will reach out to stakeholders to identify a path forward that provides solutions to this increasingly disruptive threat and enables the continued flow of goods.”