Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The National Retail Federation said Monday major U.S. retail container ports are expected to see a decrease in imports this month as coronavirus has caused shutdowns of factories in China.
Retail imports from China are forecast to be down 12.9 percent from the previous year, Global Port Tracker Report released Monday by NRF and Hackett Associates said.
U.S. ports are expected to handle about 1.41 million twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, this month. That figure was down from 1.54 million units ports expected to handle this month before the coronavirus outbreak. A TEU amounts to one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
In January, 1.82 million units were estimated, which was down 3.8 percent from the previous year.
Factories are usually closed for Lunar New Year holiday in China, but those shutdowns have lasted longer than usual with the coronavirus outbreak, said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy.
"February is historically a slow month for imports because of Lunar New Year and the lull between retailers' holiday season and summer, but this is an unusual situation," Gold said. "Many Chinese factories have already stayed closed longer than usual, and we don't know how soon they will reopen. U.S. retailers were already beginning to shift some sourcing to other countries because of the trade war, but if shutdowns continue, we could see an impact on supply chains."
Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett added that the coronavirus outbreak has made projecting the future rate of imports "even more challenging."
"It's questionable how soon manufacturing will return to normal, and following the extension of the Lunar New Year break all eyes are on what further decisions China will make to control the outbreak," Hackett said.
The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to more than 900 people.