A leading NSW grain trader has indicated the export of this year's chickpea crop to key South Asia markets is under threat, with trade largely suspended due to unavailability of bookings on ships.
Sources from within the industry say they can't book containers with chickpeas for export to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
If the situation continues, some chickpea growers may be forced to seek bulk cargo ships, but in NSW this would mean transporting chickpeas south to Melbourne or north to Brisbane - if they can find a ship.
The extraordinary situation has arisen from the congested world shipping trade routes partly caused by the pandemic.
Almost 2.5 million tonnes of Australian grain is now exported each year through containers, a burgeoning area especially for niche markets such as for chickpeas.
A leading grain buyer and trader says normally they would get 100 containers a week at this time of year to fill with grain for export, but now can only obtain about 10 containers a week.
Freight charges have also tripled, with the price rising from $US800 per container from Australia to India last year, now hitting $3300 to $4000 per container.
"We are absorbing the costs at the moment but inevitably they will have to be passed on to growers if this continues," the trader told The Land.
The export choke comes as a blow, just as prices peak and great conditions have produced one of the best chickpea crops on record at over 600,000 hectares planted nationally. Everyone in the industry hopes the situation improves for access to export ships to the subcontinent as the chickpea harvest gets underway.
Containerised grain is a booming export trend with now wheat, barley, canola, lentils, chickpeas and cottonseed among the crops sent by containers - and the overseas appetite for clean Australian grain delivered to the door is growing.
NSW Farmers grains committee chair Matthew Madden said while the export problems were there, it was important to move to some solutions as quickly as possible.
"At this stage it looks like the system is adding costs without adding value," he said.
He said one solution could be building a container terminal in Newcastle to add to competition and avoid logjams that often occur at Port Botany.
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