Stressed links in the food supply chain cause gaps on supermarket shelves

Ports of Auckland has moved to open gates 24 hours a day.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

Ports of Auckland has moved to open gates 24 hours a day.

New Zealand supermarket shoppers still face empty shelves as supply chain disruptions around the world transform the flow of goods to our shores.

The global Covid-19 pandemic is causing a “stop-start” flow of imports, commentators say, as ships await arrival or operations due to sporadic lockdowns, staff illnesses or self-isolation retriggered by the Omicron variant , is slowed down.

Here, pet food, canned milk, oil, and canned tomato and pineapple stocks are patchy.

More supermarkets are understood to be putting restrictions on packs of toilet paper, flour and pet food this week. Lemons were in short supply as a container from America sat on the quay for a week.

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Nestle condensed milk has been unavailable in some supermarkets for a few weeks. Some brands of cat food have customer restrictions.

Supernarkets from Upper Hutt to Masterton didn't have standard condensed milk throughout the week.

Karen Coltman/Stuff

Supernarkets from Upper Hutt to Masterton didn’t have standard condensed milk throughout the week.

Richard Brake, secretary of the New Zealand Pet Manufacturers’ Association, said one reason for the pet food shortage is that some ingredients were imported and didn’t get here fast enough.

He said some products are being ordered from America, where there is a backlog of goods containers at ports.

“The delays in goods coming in from China and America and then on to us are now showing because some ingredients of a canned product are being shipped here from the United States, where containers are standing in the ports and especially Los Angeles,” Brake said .


A worker at Auckland Airport demonstrates how to perform a rapid Covid-19 antigen test.

“After the initial Covid-19 lockdown demand for goods should have dropped but the opposite has happened and ports are failing to keep up with demand and this is a global supply chain issue.”

According to Brake, another reason cat food was out of stock from time to time was the lockdown, which resulted in people getting new pets.

Purina pet food maker Nestle confirmed that bringing the supply of pet food here at a time when demand was high was a “real juggler”.

A spokeswoman said when another company had a recall issue for its pet food, it put more pressure on the product.

“Sometimes it’s a race against the shelf and we rely on American manufacturing for some canned products and that has caused delays, but we’re currently ahead,” she said.

She said there was a time last year when container backlog in America was so great that some container ships loaded with various products didn’t make it to New Zealand at all.

Simon Munt, general manager of container operations at Lyttelton Port Company, said it managed a record number of containers last year.

“For several months in 2021, the all-time record for containers through the port was broken again and again. This is the result of the sheer increase in demand for imports and exports, as well as some moves towards more cargo handling in New Zealand,” said Munt.

Munt said ship arrivals are unpredictable due to delays elsewhere in the supply chain.

To cope with the increased volume and unpredictability of ship arrivals, Ports of Auckland is now operating 24 hours a day.

Spokeswoman Julie Wagener said the jerky “stop-start” situation in the global supply chain made it less predictable when ships would arrive, so the port was working around the clock and moving as quickly as possible.

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