Shutdown of Pipeline in Alaska Could Hurt Growers During Apple Harvest - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Shutdown of Pipeline in Alaska Could Hurt Growers During Apple Harvest

YAKIMA, Wa - Growers say an average apple harvest is good news for pricing, but the pipeline shutdown in Alaska could cause fuel prices to spike during the harvest.

Mike Saunders says he'll start harvesting apples in late September.  If the Alaska pipeline is still shutdown, the cost to ship his apples could go up substantially. 

"We could easily see a five to ten percent increase in costs from fuel," says Saunders.

Last year, growers started paying a surcharge to shipping companies to compensate for rising fuel prices.  Growers here in the valley had to pay an extra 15% over and above the cost to ship their apples.  That could go up to 20% or 25% when the harvest rolls around this year.

"Last couple years, it's been a hard market for growers.  Lots of people are struggling to meet costs. This doesn't help by any means," says Saunders.

Labor is usually the biggest expense for growers.  Now they could end spending double for fuel. Fuel prices have already been an issue this year and the harvest has even started yet.

"Everything we do is fuel oriented," says Saunders, "From pick-ups to wind machines, tractors, sprayers."

Saunders hopes the pipeline in Alaska can be fixed quickly.  His only other option is just to conserve wherever possible.

"There's really not much you can do except make sure anytime you do something in the orchard, you do it only one time."

Growers say they can't pass the cost for fuel onto retailers or consumers.  The problem is they're dealing with perishable products and they can't wait to move them.

Mike Saunders says he'll start harvesting apples in late September.  If the Alaska pipeline is still shutdown, the cost to ship his apples could go up substantially. 

"We could easily see a five to ten percent increase in costs from fuel," says Saunders.

Last year, growers started paying a surcharge to shipping companies to compensate for rising fuel prices.  Growers here in the valley had to pay an extra 15% over and above the cost to ship their apples.  That could go up to 20% or 25% when the harvest rolls around this year.

"Last couple years, it's been a hard market for growers.  Lots of people are struggling to meet costs. This doesn't help by any means," says Saunders.

Labor is usually the biggest expense for growers.  Now they could end spending double for fuel. Fuel prices have already been an issue this year and the harvest has even started yet.

"Everything we do is fuel oriented," says Saunders, "From pick-ups to wind machines, tractors, sprayers."

Saunders hopes the pipeline in Alaska can be fixed quickly.  His only other option is just to conserve wherever possible.

"There's really not much you can do except make sure anytime you do something in the orchard, you do it only one time."

Growers say they can't pass the cost for fuel onto retailers or consumers.  The problem is they're dealing with perishable products and they can't wait to move them.

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