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Commodities

Port strikes push up Japan food prices

TOKYO -- Shipping delays caused by a protracted labor dispute at U.S. West Coast ports are pushing up food prices in Japan. The weaker yen is not helping.

     At Tokyo's Ota market, the capital's main fruit and vegetable wholesaler, the price for a carton of 88 California oranges is around 5,350 yen ($44.20), up about 50% from a year earlier. And 140 California lemons now cost roughly 6,000 yen, a 20% increase.

     Store prices are also rising. A supermarket in Tokyo sells oranges for approximately 130 yen each, up 30% from the same month last year. It also sells lemons for 80 yen each, up 20%, and grapefruits for around 140 yen, an increase of 10%.

     "Logistics costs are going up because an extra rate associated with port congestion is added to shipping charges," said an employee of a trading house in Tokyo. "And we can't have orders delivered on time."

     Delayed shipments from the U.S. forced McDonald's Japan in December to suspend sales of medium and large fries.

     Weather is adding to the problem. Poor rainfall in California delayed the growth of oranges and lemons. Shipments of nuts and raisins from California have also been delayed by two to three weeks. And dealers' inventories of almonds and walnuts in Japan were reduced. Products "may be in short supply in the future," said the trading house employee.

     The wholesale price of almonds in Japan has already risen by roughly 30% over the past year, due partly to the dry climate in production regions.

(Nikkei)

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