Wholesale produce distribution in the Northeast remains in limbo in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Distributors aren’t certain how long business will remain at a standstill after the Category I hurricane slammed into New York and New Jersey, devastating homes and businesses and closing supermarkets and restaurants.
The Oct. 29-30 “superstorm” prompted the closing of the New York and Philadelphia terminal markets, which escaped damage and reopened Oct. 31.
The storm disrupted produce distribution for Northeastern wholesalers and grower-shippers throughout the U.S.
“It’s a mess,” Chris Armata, president of E. Armata Inc., a wholesaler on the Hunts Point Terminal Market, said Oct. 31. “Some customers are ordering and some are then cancelling because their power has yet to be turned on. In many areas, particularly on Long Island, many retailers and most restaurants are closed.
“Overall, business is very slow with the unknown power situation. We have no idea how business will be. It’s so uncertain. We don’t know whether to order or not and we have inventory that we still need to sell through.”
Mike Maxwell, president of Philadelphia-based Procacci Bros Sales Corp., said the issue isn’t so much storm damage, but lack of power and said many chain stores throughout the Northeast remain closed.
Maxwell said some stores likely won’t reopen until Nov. 3-4 while sand remains at the doorsteps of others.
“If you’re out of power, you will end up throwing out all your produce,” Maxwell said Oct. 31. “There’s a lot of pressure on the stores now. They can’t get their people in to work. Once they do get in, they’re all in clean-up mode, not operations. There are a lot of things being pushed-back. It’s very hectic out there.”
Maxwell said stores also await visits by insurance adjusters before resuming operations.
He said he couldn’t speculate on when business would return to normal, but said it could be up to a week.
Maxwell said the stores that are open are doing brisk business but said distributors can’t deliver to many Long Island customers because the secondary highways and roadways remain blocked.
Ken Gilliland, director of transportation and international trade for Western Growers, Irvine, Calif., said it could take several days before shippers determine how the road closures, delays at receivers caused by power shortages, lack of return equipment and higher rates following tighter truck availability could affect shippers.