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[SANTIAGO] Exporters of Chilean fruit said they were sending US shipments to different ports to avoid disruption caused by a dispute between shipping companies and dockworkers on the West Coast, ratcheting up journey times to market.
The dispute has led to a partial shutdown of ports along the West Coast. US Labor Secretary Tom Perez is traveling to California on Tuesday to to try to broker a deal.
Supply chains across the Pacific have been disrupted, with some Asian suppliers turning to costly air freight.
The United States is the principal market for Chilean fruit, one of the South American country's most important export industries after copper. Chile supplies grapes, kiwis, apples and other foods to the Northern Hemisphere during the southern summer and fall.
The strike was affecting its exports by delaying unloading time, fruit exporters' association ASOEX said on Monday.
"Some exporters have adopted the strategy of sending their goods to the East Coast and then via land, in order to fulfil their contracts, which leads to higher costs and challenges for the condition of the fruit on arrival," ASOEX President Ronald Bown said.
Currently, three ships are at sea waiting to dock, carrying about US$45 million worth of Chilean fruit, with a further five ships expected by mid-March, the organisation said.
About 30 per cent of Chile's fruit exports to the United States usually arrive via the affected ports. "ASOEX hopes that this situation normalises quickly, and is asking Chilean diplomatic authorities in the country to act to resolve the problem," it said.