How to Navigate Produce Season Logistics

How to Navigate Produce Season Logistics

PCB has earned a positive reputation for our handling of produce and perishable product shipments. There is a compelling argument to make that starting in 1954, our business has been built on produce shipments, and our expertise and knowledge in shipping this kind of product have played no small part in our company’s success. With that in mind, today, our aim is to educate new importers on an event that can have a massive impact on your bottom line, particularly if you are in that field - Produce Season.

Much like the world at large, when it comes to freight, there are four different ‘seasons’ that run through the calendar year - Holiday, Peak, Quiet, and Produce. These seasons represent the kinds of imports that are most relevant at that point in time, along with recurring global events that can impact the necessary logistics behind them. Today, we are discussing the Produce Season, which runs from roughly March to October. But what is Produce Season, and what can an importer do to most effectively navigate it? Read on as we dive deep into how these seasonal changes impact logistics and what it can mean for you and your business. 

What is Produce Season in Logistics?

Beginning in the deep south of the US, warm weather creeps up the continent around March/April, bringing with it growing seasons to more and more farmers. This slow ascent of spring and summer heralds the beginning of what importers know as Produce Season.

As the weather gets warmer, large swaths of farms across the US begin to harvest their first yields. To look at it, it moves like a wave of heat that rises up the continent over the course of months, and all the farms within that band look to ship their produce at functionally the same time, collectively seeking ways to ship that produce to grocery stores across the US and Canada quickly and effectively.

This influx of produce importers are, in general, all seeking the same kind of refrigerated freight transport for their goods, and this simultaneous surge puts a strain on the logistical web that typically makes up transport across the country. There are only so many of the necessary refrigerated vehicles, or ‘reefers’ as they are often referred to, and many of them are booked for this exact reason months in advance. Unsurprisingly, these vehicles are suddenly in high demand, and with that demand, there is a rippling strain on supply chains across the continent.

What Does This Mean For You As an Importer?

It is essential to understand that Produce Season does not just affect produce importers as they work to secure space on reefers. The effect of freight seasonality is not felt in a bubble, and nowhere is that truer than during the Produce Season. Drivers are pulled toward the increased demand and their contractually obligated shipments, and in doing so, they are pulled away from other areas. 

The impact of Produce Season on freight shipping cannot be understated, even if you aren’t in the produce shipping business. During this season, it can mean higher rates, reduced capacities, and heightened competition for space on reefer trucks—particularly if you are not a regular importer of perishable goods. Here are a few good practices every commercial importer can adopt to be ready for anything during Produce Season. 

Pick Your Moment

The bulk of major produce importers will have secured their space months in advance, but if you are not a regular importer of perishable goods, it may serve you well to wait before attempting to ship your goods. The season doesn’t last forever, and as previously mentioned, costs are going to be high, and space is incredibly limited - particularly if you aren’t a regular produce importer. If your shipment can wait, it makes a lot of sense to wait until the off-season.

Trust Your Broker - Avoid Spoilage

While not entirely tied to Produce Season, importing produce, particularly from the US to Canada, is often a complex affair involving multiple governmental bodies. Admissibility, import requirements, duties, taxes, and a host of other processes must be adhered to, and failure to complete any of the steps required, regardless of the season, will end in potentially lengthy delays at Customs. The last thing you want to have happen is for the produce you fought so hard to get here to spoil due to a delay at the border. At PCB, freight management and brokerage walk hand in hand, and as mentioned, we have built our reputation on produce and perishable goods. In no other industry is speed and coordination so important, and with PCB, both the compliance and the freight management are down the hall from each other. 

Make Friends with Your Freight Managers and Carriers All Year

You may be an importer that only needs to ship during Produce Season, but doing business and maintaining a good relationship with your friendly freight management team all year round can go a long way to ensuring they have your best interest at the top of mind when Produce Season arrives. After all, it’s knowledgeable people working behind the screens and phones, and it’s human nature for them to aid those people with whom they already have a good business relationship. Produce Season is an excellent time to harvest the relationship you’ve cultivated all year.

Produce season can be a time of significant stress for importers and carriers of all shapes, sizes, and industries. It is a phenomenon that stretches across the US and Canada and often represents a kind of speed bump or litmus test for a business or driver’s ability to plan ahead and capitalize on opportunity. 

PCB’s freight management team has been helping importers with Produce Seasons for many years, so if you have any questions, concerns, or queries about shipping during this often frantic time, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team today. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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About Author

Sean Ploss is the industry expert you can count on to get your goods moving, and with 26 years of experience in logistics and supply chain management, it’s easy to see why. Sean has worked in various capacities, including shipping, LTL coordination, flat-deck transportation, logistics brokerage, and business development. With a business certificate from the Transportation Intermediaries Association for Partnership selling the Supply Chain, Sean currently works with the PCB business development team. Whether it’s major projects like the Olympics in 2010 or the transportation of drilling hardware to a single job site in California, Sean is PCB’s trusted voice for businesses in need of supply chain management and logistics plans of all shapes, budgets, and scales.

While we strive for accuracy in all our communications, as the Importer of Record it is incumbent upon your company to ensure that you are aware of the requirements under the new regulations so that you maintain compliance as always.