Supermarket suppliers are reassuring the public most grocery items will remain available, despite panic-buying ahead of a feared coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement released late on Tuesday, food and grocery manufacturers admitted to facing some challenges accessing some ingredients and packaging in the wake of the Covid-19 coronavirus but said "it's nothing that can't be handled".

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New Zealand Food & Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said suppliers had no general concerns about their ability to continue to supply the vast majority of food and grocery items.

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"Apart from some products, such as hand sanitiser, which has been well-publicised, we have no significant concerns for other products being in short supply," she said.

"Some types of packaging and ingredients that are imported from China have run short, but alternatives are being sourced elsewhere, including from Australia."

Despite reports of customers bulk-buying toilet paper, the major manufacturer for New Zealand - SCA Hygiene Australasia - has not reported any difficulties in supply. SCA Hygiene makes tissues for brands including Sorbent, Purex, Handee and Treasures.

Business as usual at the PAK'nSAVE Wairau Park supermarket on Sunday morning after the coronavirus panic shopping the day before. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Business as usual at the PAK'nSAVE Wairau Park supermarket on Sunday morning after the coronavirus panic shopping the day before. Photo / Jason Oxenham

News.com reported Kimberley-Clark, the company that makes Kleenex toilet paper, said:
"Kleenex toilet paper for Australia and NZ is made at our mill in South Australia so while we are seeing increased demand by consumers, we have sufficient supply. We're now working with our customers to replenish supermarket shelves faster".

Toilet paper is a household staple, but there are several other reasons people appear to be buying up big.

Firstly, the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted manufacturing in China, which is one of the world's key suppliers of toilet paper. That's prompted fears there may be a shortage in Australia, but experts say there's no need to worry.

There were also reports people were buying toilet paper and napkins across Asia under the false belief they can be used to make improvised face masks. This may have spread to New Zealand via Asia media outlets.

Demand for surgical face masks has exploded since the virus was first detected in Wuhan in December, but they're now becoming increasingly hard to find.

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Shoppers cleared some items out of PAK'nSAVE Wairau Park supermarket on Sunday morning. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Shoppers cleared some items out of PAK'nSAVE Wairau Park supermarket on Sunday morning. Photo / Jason Oxenham

However, experts have repeatedly said most people don't need to cover their faces unless they are already ill or taking care of someone who is ill.

Rich added these are challenges that food and grocery manufacturers face from time to time, and there are always other sources to get most things.

"There's more than enough of most products to get New Zealand through, but there might be some products where we have to crank up local manufacturing and production.

"We've got capacity to make most things and if this event worsens it could be that we'll have to get back to doing that for some products.

"None of this is reason for concern," Rich said. "New Zealand will never run out of food. We make a lot of food for the world, so we are completely able to feed ourselves."