Business

Wednesday, Dec 05 2012 05:29 PM

End of strike brings relief to Kern County exports, imports

BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer rkheel@bakersfield.com

With the port strike in Los Angeles and Long Beach settled, Kern County agriculture and commerce that had been worried about an extended fight affecting imports and exports are ready for business to return to normal.

Of the length of the eight-day strike, Joseph Roth, spokesman for Ikea, said, "This was a fairly short one. We're all good."

Some agricultural interests said they worried about how they would export products during the strike, while others said exports are slow this time of year anyway. Distribution centers in Kern County said they had contingencies to deal with the strike, but that if it had lasted issues might have arisen.

For example, Roth said the Ikea distribution center at Tejon Ranch was well stocked before the strike, so there were no issues with sending products to stores. The company also continued to use the terminals that remained open amid the strike.

Had the strike been drawn out for a month, then the company might have had to prioritize which products to have shipped in, he said. Some stores with extra stock might have also had to ship those items to other stores that were out of stock in lieu of the items coming from the distribution center, he said.

Likewise, the Target distribution center in Shafter continued normal operations, Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said in an email. That's because Target, too, continued to use the few open terminals in Los Angeles and redirected other shipments to ports in Seattle, she said.

Ben McFarland, executive director of the Kern County Farm Bureau, said at least one grape grower was very concerned about exports during the strike. Most of the agriculture exports have already been completed for the year, McFarland said. But grapes are still being exported, he said.

"Every grape grower who ships is being affected," he said on Tuesday, the day before the end of the strike.

The grape grower McFarland talked to had five containers of grapes sitting in the port waiting to go. The grower had to pay for the delays and worried the perishable grapes would go bad before shipping, McFarland said.

The cotton industry was concluding the harvest and preparing to ship during the strike, said Mark Bagby, communications director for CALcot, a Bakersfield-based cotton marketing co-operative. Had the strike lasted, cotton exporters would have had to use ports in Oakland, Seattle or Vancouver and pay more than shipping from Los Angeles, he said.

"We're just shuffling the cards we're dealt," he said.

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