Coronavirus: NZ running out of chiller space for stalled farming exports

New Zealand is running out of chiller storage for farming products destined for export but held up because of the coronavirus outbreak, says a sector leader.

The disruption of supply chains means there is a backlog of products at Chinese ports. 

National president of Federated Farmers, Katie Milne told Magic Talk's Sean Plunket it was a big concern.

"We have been struggling to get stock away, because of the ports being jammed up in China," said Milne. 

She said the issue had major flow-on effects for trade.

"If the containers don't get emptied over there and the produce can't get to where it needs to go, they don't come back here to be refilled."

The bottle-neck at ports in China meant New Zealand was running out of freezer space for product, she said.

"With meat products, once they are off the animal they have to be chilled and looked after very carefully.

Katie Milne said the effect of the coronavirus was having a flow-on effect for all aspects of farming.
Katie Milne said the effect of the coronavirus was having a flow-on effect for all aspects of farming. Photo credit: Newshub

"Milk products, apart from fresh milk and cheese and butter, can go into just storage in a warehouse, but for our cool chain stuff, which is lamb and beef, you have a quick turnaround, the product goes out of the freezers, and onto the water and it’s into the market."

Milne said it wasn't just pastoral farmers taking a hit.

"It's not only affecting the ability for farmers to move stock off the land and with the drought they would like to be able to, then you have apples and things like that which are coming on stream, they need cool storage too so we are blocking up freezer space all around the place, it's a problem for all of us."

"It's a really long flow-on effect for all aspects of farming at the moment."

Meanwhile, an east coast logging contractor told Newshub this week he's losing hundreds of thousands of dollars every month as the trading effects of the coronavirus wreak havoc.

It's estimated 300 people are being laid off or having their hours reduced on the east coast alone from an industry critical to the regional economy.

Robert Stubbs says this is about as tough as it gets - COVID-19 has halved the income from his forestry contracting company. 

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer said the company had been working hard to try to and balance storage and processing capacity.

"It's a little bit of a perfect storm I guess at the moment because whilst we've got big livestock flows, plus the drought really putting pressure on processing capacity, the coronavirus situation has meant we don't have a lot of confidence to in our ability or the supply chains ability to get product into China just at the moment," Limmer told RNZ

He said any of its farmer suppliers that were struggling due to the dry conditions should talk to their livestock representative.

"We recognise that farmers have got pressure coming at them in terms of their feed, so we're endeavouring to work as closely as we can with farmers and ensure we are supporting them, but there is a bit of a back-log [to process animals] and it's just a particularly busy time at the moment," he said.