Bloomberg reports that global competition for the ribbed steel containers means that Thailand can’t ship its rice, Canada is stuck with peas and India can’t offload its mountain of sugar.
Shipping empty boxes back to China has become so profitable that even some American soybean shippers are having to fight for containers to supply hungry Asian buyers.
“People aren’t getting their goods where they need them,” said Steve Kranig, director of logistics at IM-EX Global Inc., a freight forwarder that handles cargoes including rice, bananas and dumplings from Asia to the U.S.
“One of my customers ships 8 to 10 containers of rice every week from Thailand to Los Angeles. But he can only ship 2 to 3 containers a week right now.”
The core issue is that China, which has recovered faster from Covid-19, has revved up its export economy and is paying huge premiums for containers, making it far more profitable to send them back empty than to refill them.