Ports congestion leads to nationwide champagne shortage

Supermarkets and retailers are running short on stock of bubbly as congestion at the ports continues to wreak havoc.

Global hold-ups of cargo ships at ports around the world and lengthy unloading delays at the country’s major port have been ongoing since October last year.

Imports of almost all goods have been affected by the hold-up at Ports of Auckland, with champagne the latest item to be hit.

Signs at multiple New World supermarkets and other stores around the country are warning consumers of the “Champagne shortage”. One sign at New World Mount Albert in Auckland said congestion at the ports was the reason it was “out of some lines of Champagne”.

A spokeswoman for Foodstuffs said the supply issues varied store to store.

Nick Hern, chief executive of premium drink brands importer and distributor EuroVintage, said supply issues affecting the industry first began leading into Christmas, in part due to global shipping delays and problems at Ports of Auckland.

The Auckland-based company has faced major stock delays bringing in its champagne and imported sparkling wine products, which it on-sells to the major supermarkets, liquor stores and restaurants throughout the country.

EuroVintage imports champagne houses Cristal, Louis Roederer and Veuve du Vernay. It was completely out of stock at the end of last year, with its containers of stock due to arrive in Auckland in November, but it only got access to these on New Year’s Eve.

“In total, I think we had about 40 containers of sparkling wine coming into the country that was due for supermarkets, which never made it,” Hern told the Herald.

While the majority of those had since arrived and the stock unloaded in recent weeks, he said there were still a number that were pending.

“It starts back in Europe because of the global shipping congestion, and then by the time it gets here there are further delays. We have had product sitting out in the Auckland Harbour for 14-21 days waiting to dock.”

While delays were one source of frustration, increased charges by the shipping lines and the Ports of Auckland that flowed on from that were a headache, Hern said.

Those costs, regrettably, would end up in the hands of the consumer, he said.

“It’s not good for the consumers that can’t get the product, and when they can they are going to have to pay more,” Hern said, adding that if delays continued the company would have no choice but to increase its prices, which would ultimately be passed on to the consumer.

Hern said the issues were beginning to “come right” compared to the major delays ahead of Christmas, but the global strain meant it was hard to know how long supply issues and delays would continue. “The whole shipping environment worldwide has changed.

“Some of our stock was supposed to come into the Ports of Auckland last week, [instead] went to Northland and then we have extra costs bringing the freight down from Northland.”

On top of that the ports directly billed the firm, even though the decision of where it would be bought in to was out of its hands, Hern said, adding that the ports “couldn’t keep putting fees up” in response to the delays.

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The liquor industry was just one of many affected by the delays, he said.

EuroVintage thought it was on top of lead times and had ordered stock with plenty of time in advance, but that had not been the case due to delays, he said.

“We’re in the hands of the shipping lines.”

Lion, which produces champagne brand Lanson in France, told the Herald it was not experiencing any issues with stock or shipping delays.

GH Mumm and Maison Perrier-Jouet manufacturer Pernod Ricard said the company had experienced “unprecedented” demand for Champagne, but it expected the stock situation to improve in weeks to come.

“We have seen unprecedented Champagne demand, particularly with an increase in the number of people celebrating at home, as well as a Champagne partnership we have with the America’s Cup,” a spokesperson for Pernod Ricard said.

“There have definitely been challenges meeting this increased demand with global supply chain delays, industrial action in Australia and additional delays at the Auckland ports. However, we are working closely with our customers to manage stock on a day-to-day basis. Peak demand was over Christmas and we are now past that period so we expect to see the situation improve in the coming weeks.”

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