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Meat exporters coping with port issues in China

Alliance Group says the company, and its Smithfield plant, has not been significantly impacted by the disruption in China as a result of Covid-19 precautions.

John Bisset/Stuff

Alliance Group says the company, and its Smithfield plant, has not been significantly impacted by the disruption in China as a result of Covid-19 precautions.

Tighter Covid-19 restrictions and increased inspections of cargo at Chinese ports have been causing disruption but most exporters are coping, Export New Zealand executive director Catherine Beard says.

“There are challenges with congestion, added to increased freight costs, but by and large from the feedback I’ve had they’re getting by.”

Heard said Kotahi, an export-import cargo management company established by Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms which represented 40 companies, was coping well because of its greater clout. Silver Fern Farms operates a meat plant at Pareora.

Smaller and medium-sized companies, however, could be struggling, she said.

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Alliance Group general manager sales Shane Kingston said the company, which is not part of Kotahi, was working to minimise trade disruption but some impact was “unavoidable”.

“In terms of New Zealand’s red meat exports to China in general, there is an increased focus on the inspection and supervision of all cargo arriving at ports as part of China’s protocols to minimise the risk of Covid-19.

“This has led to reduced movement of containers through ports and customs across the main ports in China.”

Kingston said the company and its partners were working to minimise the effect.

“Alliance will continue to monitor the issue, and where appropriate, move product to alternative markets in the short term,” he said.

Kingston said Timaru’s Smithfield plant was now focused on meeting customers’ requirements for its important Easter chilled lamb programme in the UK and Europe.

‘’We have a diverse range of markets and will continue to meet the demands of our customers across the globe.”

Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said the supply of refrigerated containers was also generally tight.

“However, our industry has the experience and expertise to manage the situation.

“The New Zealand red meat sector’s diverse market and product portfolio also enables it to divert lamb, beef, mutton and co-products to different markets, as needed.

“Our meat processors and exporters are focused on careful planning and ensuring there is a consistent and well-organised flow of livestock coming into plants and product going out,” Karapeeva said.

She said processors and exporters were in regular contact with their shipping lines.

“It is also important for farmers to plan ahead as much as possible when dispatching livestock to processing plants and to keep talking to their processors.”

Beard said most New Zealand exports were “getting away OK”.

Costs for air cargo, however, had risen sharply since pre-Covid-19.

“My information is that air cargo rates will not return to pre-Covid-19 levels until they get passengers back.’’

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