Shipping delays cause headaches for primary sector exports

COVID-19 is causing delays at ports around the world.
COVID-19 is causing delays at ports around the world. Photo credit: Getty

By Riley Kennedy of RNZ

Global shipping delays are starting to cause headaches for New Zealand primary sector exports.

COVID-19 is causing delays at ports around the world and the impact in New Zealand has been exacerbated with severe delays at Ports of Auckland, which is only using around third of its crane capacity.

Auckland is often a first call for ships arriving in the country to deliver imports, and the vessel delays of up to 14 days are flowing to other New Zealand ports, causing a container yard congestion at Tauranga.

New Zealand onions are one of the sectors impacted by the shipping delays at the Port of Tauranga.

The industry had over 50 containers of export onions bound for Europe, due to leave Tauranga last week, which missed their ship.

Onions New Zealand chief executive James Kuperus said their export season got off to a early and positive start. However, the shipping delay had slowed exports right down.

He said the sector relied heavily on both Ports of Auckland and Tauranga for its exports and exports that don't go are impacting on growers' back pockets.

"The problem is we apply to some markets for a certain window so you may say to your customer, your onions will arrived at this date and they can plan their retail programs," Kuperus said.

"So if the product doesn't arrive in the correct week or the following on, then they can't force consumers to buy twice or three times as many onions when product does arrive.

"If you miss a couple of weeks then that's the window gone unfortunately, so every shipment delay does impact the grower."

James Kuperus said the 50 containers of onions would have been worth over $600,000.

Onions that miss shipment will end up overseas eventually but at a reduced price, otherwise New Zealand's domestic market may flood, Kuperus said.

Another sector struggling with the shipping delays is the red meat sector.

Danny Hailes from meat company, Alliance said getting containers back to its processing plants to be re-filled is a problem.

"When containers reach their port of destination, whether it be China or US, then obviously those containers need to be replaced with empty containers and cycled back to New Zealand to be filled," Hailes said

"So getting those containers to be keeping up with production is becoming a juggling act."

Danny Hailes said at this stage the volume of exports hadn't been impacted.

The vast majority of New Zealand exports - 99 percent - are sent by sea.