Shipping and Warehouse Delays

COVID-19 continues to dramatically affect the movement and receipt of coffee.

If you don’t read further, please know this: If you’d like coffee for April, please adjust your old timetables and expectations to avoid disappointments and delays.

If you’re buying from origin, there’s now a three-month minimum from origin to warehouses.

If you’re ordering spot, please build extra days into your timing and expect that you may need to consider substitutions.

If you plan to release coffee, please know that it’s now often taking five days to get releases shipped and 10 business days or longer to pick up containers at the terminal.

Congestion at the ports is dramatic. On both coasts, there are shortages of truck drivers, and pick-up delays and driver-standby charges have increased significantly.

How Did We Get Here?

Over the spring and summer, as countries locked down to contain the coronavirus, the number of port workers was reduced, as were activities across the supply chain. In many countries, producers were unable to deliver to mills, and many mills were unable to open and operate. Shipping containers were confined to closed warehouses and ports, and with delays across the supply chain, shippers were forced to sail partially empty ships at serious financial loss. They responded by reducing the number of vessels in use, as well as their numbers of port visits — changes that can’t be reversed quickly.

The situation has also been exacerbated by slowdowns and delays across the U.S. Lockdowns and necessary staff reductions — within trucking companies, at ports and at receiving sites — have slowed the pace at which containers, traveling from the coasts to the rest of the country, can be unloaded and returned to port. While one- and two-day turnarounds used to be common, the process is now taking a week or even two.

Additionally, because China recovered most quickly, many businesses quickly moved their production to China, and available shipping containers followed. China celebrates an important national holiday Oct. 1, and its factories raced to complete their U.S. holiday-timed freight by late September. U.S. business closures, however, meant dramatic reductions in winter-holiday orders and so also the number of containers that headed to the U.S. in the fall.

Origin countries have shortages of 20-foot containers, and shipments face delays at transshipment ports (stops between the origin and final destination). Shipments from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are running two to four weeks behind, and a lack of vessels on the East Coast is causing two-week delays of shipments from Mexico, Colombia and Brazil.

While everyone across the supply chain is working to improve the situation in any ways available to them, these are slow-moving processes, working against a virus that continues to rage.

Even once fresh coffee reaches the U.S., or is released and sent on its way to you, it may still face delays. A coffee that leaves the Annex, for example, may stop in Los Angeles, where — due to sickness and absentees — it suddenly faces new delays.

We are trying our best, and we’re always happy to work with you, to be creative and to find any solutions possible. So please don’t hesitate to reach out — — and most of all, please stay safe, friends.

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