The coronavirus outbreak in China is "causing problems all over the place" for New Zealand's meat and seafood industries says Takitimu Seafoods interim chief executive Taine Randell.

The timing of the outbreak, around Chinese New Year and the holiday period was also creating "massive issues", the former All Black captain told The Country's Jamie Mackay.

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The crayfish industry was based around these holidays as China's prices were "so much higher than anyone else pays" said Randell.

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"Chinese New Year pretty much started last Friday and in anticipation of that, every crayfish [and] lobster company in New Zealand had loaded up their tanks to supply that market. Unfortunately the taps got turned off".

Most of New Zealand's crayfish were exported to China, after it solved the logistics of live imports and "revolutionised" the market said Randell.

Takitimu Seafoods interim chief executive Taine Randell. Photo / Warren Buckland
Takitimu Seafoods interim chief executive Taine Randell. Photo / Warren Buckland

"Around 20 years ago, we used to just get our crayfish, freeze them, whip the tails off them and send them to Japan".

Randell said the crayfish industry was the most sustainable in New Zealand, as fishers could target their quota to Chinese holidays. Now these people were relying on the income that quota would bring which was "not going to happen this year".

China's slow holiday season and "big restrictions" were also causing issues for New Zealand's meat exports said Randell.

Listen to Jamie Mackay interview Taine Randell on The Country below:

"China is to the mutton industry what it is to the lobster industry".

Randell said processing had stopped for mutton, leaving warehouses "chocka" in China and New Zealand.

As a result Kiwi exporters had to send product to other markets, and while there was no problem selling, Randell said the price was "significantly lower".

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Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer. Photo / George Novak.
Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer. Photo / George Novak.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer echoed Randell's comments, saying the timing was "pretty tough" for New Zealand farmers.

"What's happened in the last 48 hours is that the Chinese government has extended the New Year holiday period just to try and restrict the amount of movement of people around the country ... that's put a bit of pressure on the capacity through the ports in particular" Limmer told The Country's Jamie Mackay.

As a result customers had asked Silver Fern Farms to "hold off for a little bit" on expected shipments.

Listen to Jamie Mackay interview Simon Limmer on The Country below:

Another issue facing Kiwi farmers was a potential halt to mutton processing, which was a "fluid situation" Silver Fern Farms was "watching very carefully" said Limmer.

"There are contingencies around where we can move product off into different markets, additional storage capacity that we can find, and then just thinking about things a little ... differently than maybe we were thinking last week".

Despite the disruption caused by coronavirus Limmer said he retained an "optimistic view" of the Chinese market.

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"It'll settle down over the coming days and weeks and they'll be looking for our products again because they trust the integrity and safety of good New Zealand products.

"This is a tough period for us to get through but ultimately I believe that we'll be well placed on the back end of it".