stink bugIt’s a little bug that’s native to Asia, including Japan and it’s particularly unattractive. It has a penchant for travel to more exotic climes, but its major claim to fame is that, when threatened, it emits a particularly unpleasant smell designed to discourage predators from making it their lunch. And now thousands of jobs are at risk in New Zealand because of it.

The New Zealanders import lots of second-hand cars from Japan (a practice that was stopped by the government in Australia many years ago) and recently ships laden with cars, both new and used, have been arriving at New Zealand ports also carrying stink bugs that have used their cruise time to breed with enthusiasm.

And because of the stowaways the ships have been turned back, complete with their cargo, to be fumigated wherever that is possible (it’s not possible in New Zealand). An outbreak of stink bugs in New Zealand has the potential to threaten the country’s entire fruit and vegetable industry because they not only suck all the moisture out of fruits and vegies, but while doing so also poison the plant.

Because of this used car sales in March plunged 18 per cent on a year ago, and new cars sales have dropped 6.6 per cent in February and 4.4 per cent in March. Infometrics economist Hilary Parker told that stricter controls for dealing with car shipments from Japan would likely continue to slow the supply chain and prompt further weakness in sales.

“The monthly decline was entirely due to fewer registrations of used imports, with stink bugs holding up car shipments from Japan,” she said.

New and used car sales for March totalled 20,891, an almost 12 per cent decline on a year ago, with the 9,050 new sales down two per cent and imported used car cars down 18.2 per cent, at 11,841 vehicles.

The problem with fumigation of the ships is that methyl bromide, the fumigant usually used against the stink bug, damages car upholstery to the point that they are unsalable, so cars would need off-loading before it can be carried out. The BBC reported that three ships are now ‘floating aimlessly’ around the Pacific.

Speaking to Radio New Zealand, Vehicle Importers Association chief David Vinsen said that car exporters are now unwilling to load a backlog of cars for import to New Zealand when a possibility exists that they’ll be turned back. This means that jobs in the retail sector could be at risk within weeks.

Published April 2018


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