How Wood Pallets Became A Hot Commodity

May 25, 2021

As if 2021 didn’t have enough supply chain challenges, slim pickings of wood pallets are now impacting the produce packing industry (say that five times fast).

And when you’ve got shortages, you’ve got price increases. Like, 400% pallet price increases.

It’s a perfect storm of factors:

  • Strong consumer demand for goods rather than services
  • Lumber shortages and price increases
  • Lack of trucks to position available pallets
  • Stockpiling of non-perishables on pallets to protect from pandemic shortages
  • Pinterest pallet projects (just kidding, but really?!)

Talk about bad timing: The shortage is expected to have unpalatable effects just as seasonal harvest and shipments begin for many produce crops. Produce availability to consumers is at risk, and retail prices may increase as growers and distributors navigate yet another supply chain challenge.

A soundbite: “If there is not a concerted effort across the supply chain to ensure pallet availability for shipment of produce, there is little doubt that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for the grower-shipper community to meet buyer, and ultimately consumer, demand for produce,” according to a letter from nine industry groups, including the United Fresh Produce Association.

Where this goes: The $4.6 billion fresh produce packing industry is investigating options to free up the shipping stalemate. Temporary changes to pallet requirements and plastic pallets are all on the table to get food to the table. Even so, producers could be plagued by pallet problems for the balance of 2021.