As International Shipping Crisis Gets Worse for US, Namibian Graduate Aims Big with Mushroom

842 views | Akpan Akata | July 22, 2021

As shipping container costs continue to rise concerns that the international shipping crisis will get worse for US agricultural exports before it gets better are pertinent again. Incentives to “dead-head” empty containers to Asia for quicker turnaround are at the root of these concerns.

This is as University of Namibia graduate, Abner Ndakalako Tomas, is determined to realise his dream of producing mushrooms on a larger scale to feed the formal markets. He is a holder of a Master’s degree in Microbiology. Tomas owns a company called Ndaka Mushrooms, which he started in 2020. Since then, he has been producing and selling mushrooms to the informal market.

“The trials were done in 2019. As of 2020 and this year, I have been producing on a small scale, and the produce is sold around in the community. This year, I am therefore planning to make flavoured mushroom biscuits to give the community a new taste. The market is good, hence my dream to expand so that I can enter the formal market”, he told allafrica.com.

Tomas has turned his house into a production centre, while a dilapidated structure within the yard is used as a fruition room. Inside the house is a laboratory room, where he does the testing of seedlings and spawning. Next to it is a cloning room where spawns are packed into plastics containing residues or grass, and this stage is the germination stage.

“In the past, I have been approached by some big retailers like Spar to supply them, but I couldn’t commit as a result of space and no proper facility. I am, however, in the process of expanding the fruition room with the little savings I have from my previous sales. Once this is done, I hope from August I can try to produce and penetrate the formal market,” added an optimistic Tomas.

However, California nut traders have seen their shipping times increase starkly, if they’re able to move their products to international markets at all. Yet, monthly reports from the Almond Board of California still point to record export shipments of California almonds. If the trends hold, California will have exported over two billion pounds of almonds in the 2020/21 marketing year, which ended August 1

Managing Partner of Meridian Nut Growers in California, Jim Zion, said he recently had a load of tree nuts take 77 days to get to Spain, while a more typical transit time was 35 days earlier.

A Rabobank report points to the consolidation of maritime carriers from 18 companies to an alliance of three. This consolidation was done to improve efficiencies. Shipping container fees that once were $2,500 pre-COVID are now much higher.

A shipping container from Hong Kong to Los Angeles now costs over $7,600. That doesn’t include shipping costs on the vessel and other assorted costs. Spot market container costs are said to run between $12,000 and $15,000 per container.

Peter Schneider, President of T.G.S. Logistics in Fresno, California told farmprogress.com that cost spread between what specialty crops pay for a container and what the shipping companies can charge for consumer goods coming from international suppliers, when combined with the three-week turnaround time it takes to unload, process, and return a container that once held US agricultural goods, has become a financial incentive for the maritime shippers.

Meanwhile, Tunisia’s food trade balance recorded a deficit of 806.9 MD in the first six months of 2021 against 137.1 MD during the same period last year. This is a coverage rate of 75.1% in 2021, against 95.2% in 2020, according to the National Observatory of Agriculture (ONAGRI).

In terms of value, food exports dropped by 10.2%, while imports increased by 13.8%.

The deficit of the country’s overall trade balance at the end of June 2021 showed a rise of 14.1% with (-7,536.4 MD) in 2021 against (-6,602.9 MD) in 2020.

The total imports went from 24,795.6 MD in 2020 to 30,362.0 MD in 2021, an increase of 22.4%, against 25.5% for exports, which went from 18,192.7 MD to 2,825.6 MD, according to ONAGRI.

 

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