Cotton To It

Mallory Alexander International Logistics's big ag import/export business.

photograph by Jtoddpope | Dreamstime

Mallory Alexander International Logistics, a company that started out in 1925 warehousing cotton, now not only stores but also helps move millions of bales of cotton and other agricultural and manmade products in and out of the U.S. each year.

“Agriculture makes up 60 percent or more of our total exports,” says W. Neely Mallory III, president of Mallory Alexander.

The company was founded by his grandfather, B.L. Mallory, under the name Memphis Compress and Storage Co. Most of the customers in the beginning were cotton farmers. In the mid-1970s, Mallory’s father, William Neely Mallory Jr., decided to join forces with a cotton merchant and began running merchant warehouses at various ports around the country. From these ports, the company distributed the cotton around the world by forwarding the freight. Over the years, the company acquired various entities and now operates several different businesses, including Alexander International, Mallory Transit, and Mallory Distribution Centers.

In 2003, the business rebranded to Mallory Alexander, and it along with the other three companies are owned by the Mallory Group. Agricultural and manufactured products are shipped around the world by Mallory Alexander, which now has more than 500 employees and 32 worldwide warehouse and distribution centers. Crops and other items from around the country are transported to the U.S. east and west coasts headed to Asia, South America, Europe, and elsewhere. “We ship to and from everywhere,” says Les Lewis, vice president of international business.

But the majority of the business, about 65 percent, is built around exporting, and cotton is a big part of that. “Back then, as today, a lot of cotton goes export,” Mallory says.

The American cotton belt extends down from Virginia, across the South and west into California, Mallory explains. “You’d be surprised where cotton is grown.”

Wherever its origin, Mallory Alexander facilitates transport of much of the estimated 12 to 13 million bales that will be annually exported from the U.S.  About 3 million to 4 million bales of cotton are expected to be used domestically this year, and the company has a hand in moving that as well.

“We do a tremendous amount of domestic business, but it’s facilitating getting the goods to and from the ports,” Mallory says. Domestic transport makes up about 5 percent of the company’s business, but only travel from non-port city to non-port city is counted as domestic.

“If we pick up a container in Memphis and send it to New Orleans, I don’t count that as domestic, I count that as export,” he says, since the container is bound for overseas travel. Mallory Alexander also has a domestic logistics division that focuses on specialized goods, such as art exhibits moving from one gallery to another.

“We have offices around the country that focus on agriculture, not just cotton, though cotton is still a big part of what we do,” Mallory says. Agricultural products Mallory Alexander exports from the Mid-South include rice, soybeans, corn, and dried distillers grains, a byproduct of ethylene production used to feed cattle. The company also handles lumber, pulp, and plywood. Lentils from Minnesota, peas from the Dakotas, hay and alfalfa from the Midwest, pistachios from the West coast, and peanuts from Texas and Georgia all are sent by Mallory Alexander around the country.  “If you grouped them, we do almost any kind of seed,” Lewis says.

“We ship to and from everywhere.”

About 35 percent of Mallory Alexander’s business is import, and much of that is agricultural, including bananas, mangos, agave, sugar, and honey. The company also owns refrigerated warehouses for storing perishable products — like tulips from the Netherlands and fresh flowers from Israel, Ecuador, and Colombia — until they can be transported to their destination. Mallory Alexander also imports some cotton for their customers.

“We don’t have ownership in any of this. We’re hired by importers and exporters to get products through customs or get them out of the country in keeping with all the regulations required to do that,” Mallory says.

“We are non-asset based. We don’t own planes, or ships or trains, but we use them all.”


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