Intra-EU produce trade could be distorted by coronavirus measures

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Intra-EU produce trade could be distorted by coronavirus measures

Fresh produce trade between EU countries could be affected as additional control measures are taken to contain the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

If other nations take similar measures to Italy and decide to lockdown large areas of the country, there could be disruptions to the industry's ability to conduct cross-border trade.

The international produce trade has also been affected over recent weeks, and the challenges look like they could continue over the coming months, according to sources.

The outbreak of coronavirus is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019. So far more than 114,000 cases have been confirmed in at least 115 countries, resulting in over 4,000 deaths.

Intra-EU trade could become less stable

While it appears as though intra-EU trade is still relatively stable, there have reportedly been complications such as staffing issues and delayed arrivals, sources say.

And the situation could get much more complicated. On Tuesday, Italy - the worst affected country by the outbreak outside of China - implemented a nationwide lockdown, restricting the movement of all its citizens.

If other member states adopt similar measures, the ability of operations to conduct cross-border trade could be severely affected.

Whether this would lead to an increase in demand for local produce  - and what the other potential knock-on effects could be - remains to be seen.

International produce trade also hit by coronavirus

Regarding international trade, numerous exporting countries began to experience impacts from the outbreak in China from January - such as Chile's cherry sector, which ships the vast majority of its fruit to China.

Sources in the Asian country in February said that the prices of cherries were severely affected as demand for fruit dropped sharply. There are now concerns in produce exporting countries that are heavily focused on China - like Australia, New Zealand and Peru - that the winter fruit season could be affected.

It remains to be seen what the scale of the knock-on effects on other markets will be, as exporters opt to send their produce to other regions, potentially creating oversupply situations.

The impact on global logistics for exports to China

For exporters who do continue to ship to China over the coming months, they could face logistical challenges entering the market.

Restrictions on the movement of goods and people have led to delays over China and Asia, sources say. 

The transit time into China has also been affected, with importers having to divert their cargo to other ports or face severe delays due to backlog in major points of entry. 

There may additionally be container shortage issues worldwide, with many containers stranded in ports, onboard ships or in terminals.

It is not yet clear when the situation could return to normal.

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