FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – California almonds are failing to get to international markets.

Much of last year’s crop set for export still sits in warehouses awaiting transport, as ships continue to leave port without them.

Almonds are a billion-dollar crop in Fresno County, California’s top agricultural export and sixth among all goods exported from our state.

Almond exporter, David Phippen, says right now shipping companies can make more money by returning overseas empty by skipping the time it takes to load U.S. goods.

“They’re motivated to take empty containers out of the port and open sail as fast as they can to China, get them loaded up, and bring goods back to the western ports. And so our agricultural products being exported from California was a nice cog in the wheel for years,” Phippen said. “But now there’s so much demand for empty containers in China to come back here that they actually they’re not excited about the opportunity to ship our agricultural goods out of California into the global marketplace.”

Phippen’s role is known as a handler.

“Almonds come here. We place them into a USDA grade-appropriate for whatever the market has as we’ve made a marketing agreement for that particular load. We place it in cardboard and ship it the next day in a container here in Manteca, takes an hour and a half to get that container to Oakland. Usually, it flows right through the port and gets loaded on the ship,” said Phippen.

California exports up to 80-percent of its almonds.

Industry reports show those exports have dropped some 25-percent.

“And the real challenge. What keeps me awake at night is our buildings are plumb full from the 2021 harvest and we rely on shipping that product out of the buildings and emptying those four by four by four wooden bins so that we can start shelling and storing the 2022 crop which usually starts for us in about the middle of August,” said Phippen.