The outbreak of Coronavirus, officially named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization last week, hasn’t significantly disrupted the produce supply chain in the U.S., but groups may soon have to make some preparations.
Exports to China are beginning to feel the effects.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance for businesses based on what is knows about similar coronaviruses.
Among its strategies are keeping sick employees home, involving healthcare providers, encouraging vigilant hygiene and keeping work-from-home policies flexible.
CDC also updated its page on the virus.
The United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458 shared the CDC links with its food safety community this week.
Regarding food safety, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland said similar viruses have not proven to be transmitted through food. Food workers are encouraged to maintain proper hygiene and not work if they are ill.
Passenger air travel has been significantly reduced between China, where the virus originated, and many countries, including the U.S. Flights are suspended between the North America and China on American, Delta, United and Air Canada.
Because of the trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, exports have been reduced but are scheduled to increase this year and next year after a recent agreement to lower Chinese tariffs.
However, for fresh produce, tariffs are still above 50 percent on many items.
Western Growers BB #:144734 sent an industry alert regarding the slowdown at Chinese ports.
Members shipping product to China should expect delays. Additionally, we are aware that several shipping companies are adding “congestion surcharges” per container for cargo bound for China and other Asian ports. Reefer containers appear to be subject to higher surcharges from some shippers than non-reefer containers. We strongly suggest checking contract terms and checking with your shipper before exporting product to China.
Western Growers further warned that fresh produce may be affected more than other shipments because the refrigerated containers they use are starting to pile up in and around Chinese ports.
The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service released a report last week saying agriculture trade to Taiwan have been disrupted because of the outbreak.
The report said:
Agricultural trade with Taiwan is being impacted by new quarantine measures, port closures, vessel delays, and suspended flights as U.S. agribusiness exporters struggle to find available space for cargo. While Taiwan has not announced any new quarantine restrictions on shipping vessels, air cargo, or incoming agricultural products due the to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), systemic delays are impacting overall U.S. agricultural exports bound for Taiwan and the world.
Blue Book will continue to follow this outbreak.