As the impact of the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, the New Zealand dairy industry is feeling the heat.

Richard Wyeth is CEO of Miraka Dairy, a Taupō-based dairy processing business with more than 130 staff. Like many dairy companies, he's keeping a close watch.

"I've spoken to a few [dairy industry CEOs] in the agri-sector who are nervous about what's happening," Wyeth said. "Certainly where they've got large exposure to China and where they've got fresh product. I think they're the ones that are probably more nervous than the likes of myself who have got a bit more time.

"Ultimately it is a waiting game, it's a bit of hurry up and wait and see what happens."


The virus has left many living in China housebound, meaning Miraka's products are struggling to make it to the shelf.

"With coronavirus, what the [Chinese] government did to reduce impact was actually told people to stay home for an extra week," Wyeth said. "But what they were doing is actually staying inside. So I was getting photos of streets in China with no cars on them and people not walking along the streets.

"So it's really impacting the hotels, restaurants and cafe trade over there.

"As a strategy for any business, you try and manage where your product goes in terms of taking on 'country risk'. This is a good example of why you do that."

While Kiwi dairy companies are taking a hit to their export orders, it could have been much worse.

"If this had happened during the peak milk period in October, it would have been really significant. But because we're in the lower period of the year with milk flows, it's not having as severe of an impact as it could have."

Wyeth can do very little but wait for the viral disruption to stop.

"The Chinese government have shown in the past they can deal to things relatively quickly. You see that in the way they build roads. And I think the market for dairy will bounce back because people have ultimately got to eat."


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