Carrot growers face a shortage of trucks this summer

In any non-pandemic year, DAT typically sees dry van and reefer spot rates peak around the July 4 holiday week. But this year, like last, is shaping up differently considering the record-level spot rates we’re seeing on the West Coast this week.

The USDA reported a slight shortage of carrot loads last week in Kern County, CA, which produces 80% of all carrots in the U.S. The county is also located in DAT’s Fresno freight market.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that over the last 12 months, California has shipped 908 million pounds of carrots. That’s the equivalent of just over 21,000 full truckloads to markets all over the country.

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The Packer’s Fresh Trends 2021 report noted 56% of shoppers said they bought fresh carrots in the past year. By region, 64% of consumers in the Western U.S. said they purchased fresh carrots, compared with 56% in the Northeast, 52% in the Midwest and 51% in the South.

The U.S. market also imports carrots from Mexico (about 6,000 truckloads annually) and Canada (about 2,500 truckloads). Mexico production typically peaks in April each year, and Canada reaches peak volumes a little earlier in January.

Although carrots ship year-round in California, there are typically two peaks on the California carrot-shipping calendar. The first is in June and July when 21% of the annual total is shipped. The second is in November and December with 19%.

The busiest shipping month in the last 12-months was last July. That month saw nearly 600 truckloads of carrots were shipped weekly. This is well above the long-term average of 400 truckloads per week.

July is also a busy holiday and celebration season. Carrots are in high demand during this time as a ‘mirepoix,’ or flavor base, in a wide variety of Western dishes meals.

According to Donna German and Visnja Zarak from Hostess Catering, carrots, onions and celery are always on hand in bulk in their kitchen.

“Whether it’s our traditional French meals like chicken coq au vin, right through to Moroccan or Asian cuisines, carrots are an essential base ingredient,” says the Boston-based chefs. “Carrots are seriously underestimated, but essential for great flavor!”

Fresno ranks as the sixth largest spot market in the country where reefer capacity continues to tighten on increasing volumes. Outbound reefer rates to all destinations are currently averaging $3.25/mile. However, capacity is very tight with some lanes paying carriers higher rates.

This includes Fresno to New York City. This lane is up over $1.00/mile since the start of the year after jumping last week to $3.14/mile. Loads to Orlando are averaging $3.27/mile this week. And west to Dallas, carriers are getting up around $3.32/mile for the 1,500-mile haul — up $1.24/mile since January.

*Note: Rates exclude fuel.