3 Mar 2015

US ports settlement brings relief for NZ exporters

2:42 pm on 3 March 2015

The meat industry says it could take two or three months for beef exports to the main US market to get back to normal after the settlement of a long-running labour dispute that's been disrupting shipping at American ports.

Meat Industry Association's chief execuive Tim Ritchie said it was a relief to have the nine month stand-off between employers and workers at West Coast ports resolved.

But he said it could take a while to free up the cargo traffic jam that had built up at the ports.

"Clearly there's a lot of product in transit or in storage or sitting there on the wharves and that will have to clear through and that will take time and also, the vessels will need to get back into their normal rotation. At one stage there were up to 30 ships anchored off in stream, waiting to dock and load and unload.

"Our guys feel that maybe it's going to take two to three months to get back competely to normal, but at least the underlying issue has been solved and from here forwards it's going to be positive."

Mr Ritchie said the ports dispute had undermined prices for beef imports into the US which had reached record levels last year.

"This year there was a steady decline in prices, given that importers couldn't do a deal with an exporter here in the knowledge that they would be able to receive that product straight through in the normal manner and so they factored in the uncertainty attached to when they could get it and maybe the cost of storage and while it suits on the wharf.

"So it had a major impact on prices, but I think there's been some sign that there's been a little bit of a lift and we would hope that things will now revert back to where they were. We've been experiencing very strong prices for beef in North America and the underlying fundmentals are pretty good."

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