Chilean grape companies planning to file class action lawsuit in U.S.

Chilean grape companies are planning to file a class action lawsuit in the US seeking over $100 million in damages against shipping companies and a key port.

This was confirmed to FreshFruitPortal.com by Matías Araya, a lawyer specializing in international trade law and partner of Araya & Cía, headquartered in the Latin American country.

The firm is working with exporters and growers to file the lawsuit in a US East Coast court against shipping companies and the Port of Philadelphia over alleged losses and unjustified charges due to delays in the fumigation of grapes and consequential damages.

To achieve this, Araya and his team are working with a law firm in the United States.

“We are evaluating the actions to be taken. The losses are beyond the control of growers and exporters. The coordination, the important errors in logistics could have been avoided, informing and resolving this in another way. Unfortunately, a very large quantity of fruit was gathered in ports that did not have the capacity to provide fumigation services in time for the volume of fruit that arrived,” Araya said.

By law, grapes must be fumigated in the US, not in Chile.

“Three to four days before arriving at the port, the temperature must rise between 4 to 5 degrees Celsius. Once the fruit arrives at the port it is fumigated, however, this fruit had to wait a long time,” Araya said.

“Without the temperature, there were significant losses of fruit, which we are only now seeing the consequences. A lot of fruit had to be discarded. It is said that close to one million boxes have been lost. In addition to the above, fines are applied for delays in the delivery of containers on a daily basis, and this has generated a complex situation.”

He added that fines should not have been issued against for the grape shippers for alleged negligence by the port.

“It is a complicated situation. Soon we will have defined the strategy and we will present the corresponding legal actions. We are facing an initial situation that responds to facts that are taking place,” he said.

“Now we are just seeing the consequences of this logistic disaster and, in my opinion, the great responsibility lies with those who provide logistic services in the transport and in the port of destination. During the month of June we will tend to define the course of action,” he added.

As for the losses, Araya said that “they are difficult to quantify since we are only now seeing the consequences, but they would be in any case in excess of US$ 100 million”.

From January to April 2022, Chilean table grape exports totaled 461,000 tons, equivalent to US$702 million FOB, registering an increase in shipments of 6% in volume and a decrease of -10% in value year-on-year.

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