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Produce shortage looms

Yes, we have no bananas.

While that’s not exactly the case at area supermarkets crippled by the lockout at West Coast ports, the tropical treat may be in short supply if the impasse between workers and management continues.

Avocados may also be scarce until both sides reach an agreement.



Shoppers looking for bananas at the Raley’s store on Freeman Lane in Grass Valley were informed of the shortage via signs posted over the fruit.

The signage indicates that because of the lockout at the port of Long Beach, all 150 Raley’s stores may experience banana shortages until the labor dispute is resolved.




Other produce and goods that are affected are being diverted to ports on the Gulf of Mexico and trucked to Raley’s stores in California, New Mexico and Nevada, said Nicole Townsend, spokeswoman for the West Sacramento-based chain.

President Bush Monday moved to create a special board to determine the impact of a labor dispute that is reportedly costing $2 billion a day.

But local retailers said they’re not worried about the impact -yet.

“Right now, we’re still getting shipments,” said Doug Painter, produce manager at the SPD Market in Nevada City.

Only a small fraction of the supermarket’s produce is affected, he added, with bananas and avocados leading the list.

It will take a while for the lockout to affect consumers’ pocketbooks, several local merchants said. According to administration officials, Bush is likely to seek a cooling-off period which could be crucial in settling talks and getting the ships unloaded.

“A continuation of this lockout, if permitted to continue, will imperil the national health and safety,” Bush wrote in an executive order signed Monday.

The lockout has also temporarily halted automotive production in Northern California plants.

Steve Raley, sales manager for Grass Valley Ford/Nissan, said there are about 30 new Nissans on his lot, and more are ready to be trucked from ports.

“So far, so good,” he said.

Painter wasn’t panicking, either.

“Everybody’s in the same boat.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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