The flow on effects of the coronavirus are being felt across the region. Photo: File.

Coronavirus causes forestry slowdown

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The flow on effects of the coronavirus are beginning to be felt across the region, with those in the primary industries suffering work cutbacks this week.

Nelson Forests Ltd general manager of forests Brent Guild says they have hundreds of contractors assisting their business, many of whom had their work cut by 20 per cent on Monday because of a slowdown of exports following the outbreak of coronavirus.

Brent says their harvesting operations dropped to 80 per cent on Monday as a first step in managing the slowdown.

“The market in China was already quite full of wood, not just from New Zealand but from Russia, Europe and North America. With coronavirus on top of that, you’ve now got people who aren’t able or can’t physically get to work.”

Brent says that part of the problem is that people in China can’t get to work to unload boats or into processing facilities.

“Up until the last couple of days the banks weren’t open to get the letter of credit which guarantees payment of the shipment at the other end.”

Brent says that the situation is fluid and is one that they will be managing day by day.

“I think it’s fair to say the magnitude and the shake that this thing is getting has really taken a lot of people by surprise.”

He says, while they are hoping it’s a short-lived event, Nelson Forests is planning for something that may take several months to right itself.

“The sorts of people who are going to be affected are the logging contractors, the carting contractors – right through to the people who provide the services at the port.”

He says they are very mindful of the impact to both businesses and individuals and are trying to manage their way through.

“We’re hoping for the best but planning for the worst.”

Brodie Drummond, general manager at Stuart Drummond Transport, says that they are one of the contractors already starting to feel the flow-on effects of coronavirus.

“We’ve had a slowdown, for sure,” Brodie says. “We do have a few other projects at the moment which means we can keep our staff busy, but this is going to hurt us financially, definitely.”

In a full council meeting last Thursday, Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said that the virus would have a significant impact.

“Consequences for our region are perhaps not so significant in relation to tourism but they are already starting to have a quite severe impact on the primary sector in terms of our exports.

“The supply chain has been disrupted so it’s not just supply going into China but the container supply chain has been disrupted, and that is going to impact very much on our horticultural sector.”