Brazil's BRF says meat shipments to China normal despite port woes

SAO PAULO, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Brazilian food processor BRF SA has not stopped shipping meat products to China even amid congestion at some of that nation’s ports related to the new coronavirus outbreak, the company said late on Friday, answering a query from Reuters.

BRF said in a statement it is monitoring fallout from the outbreak and the flow of goods shipped to China “on a daily basis,” noting cargo movements into Chinese ports are gradually being restored.

Ships carrying refrigerated cargo containers of chicken from the United States to China were being diverted to ports in other countries, as Chinese ports ran out of space for refrigerated containers that must be plugged into electrical outlets once they are offloaded to keep frozen meat and other food products cold.

China is struggling to resume normal trade operations as fallout from the coronavirus hits container shipping lines and logistics chains, with the world’s biggest container line Maersk warning on Thursday that the coronavirus outbreak would weigh on earnings.

BRF said it has not incurred additional shipping costs to continue sending goods to China, specifically addressing a Reuters question related to a $1,000 “congestion fee” per container of refrigerated cargo that shipping companies were demanding from exporters willing to send refrigerated products immediately to the Asian country.

“The volumes produced by the company destined for China are being shipped normally,” BRF said, adding it has faced no storage problems in Brazil related to Chinese port woes.

BRF added it “understands that cargo being shipped at this time will arrive in China with a more controlled logistics situation.”

ABPA, an association of Brazilian chicken and pork producers, confirmed delays related to clearance of refrigerated products at Chinese ports amid the new coronavirus epidemic. Yet citing information from its member companies and the Brazilian government, ABPA said this week “there was an improvement in the flow of cargo” arriving via Chinese ports.

Brazil’s beef processor group ABIEC said it received no information from its members that beef shipments were being rerouted to ports in other countries as a result of congestion at Chinese logistics hubs.

ABIEC welcomed China’s transport ministry announcement on Feb. 15 that it would waive road and expressway toll fees nationally from Feb. 17 until the country’s epidemic control work was done, saying it would help restore commercial flows. (Reporting by Ana Mano Editing by Alistair Bell)