The coronavirus outbreak in China has hit the New Zealand forestry sector just as it was starting to recover from last year's price slump.
By late last year, New Zealand log prices in China were improving, restoring a little confidence to the sector.
But the virus outbreak has again seen logs start to pile up on Chinese wharves as economic activity looks certain to slow in response to the outbreak, which has killed at least 426 people.
A sudden increase in imports from Europe saw "A" grade log prices slump to US$105 per JAS metre last July after hitting a record US$140/metre a year earlier, thereby ending a five-year strengthening trend.
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Today, with so many players absent from the market, it's difficult to even establish a price.
"There is a lot of uncertainty as to where things are going," ANZ agriculture economist Susan Kilsby said.
"Prices are definitely heading south, but to actually quantify that is pretty difficult at the moment," she said.
"There is not really any trade happening. Many of the banks are closed in China, so actually getting agreements and deals moving has meant things have ground to a standstill," she said.
Two-thirds of the Chinese economy will remain closed this week as several provinces took the extraordinary step of extending the Chinese New Year holiday to help curb the spread of the disease.
The outbreak has brought New Zealand's second biggest log-exporting port - Eastland - to a standstill, with the shock news from its export customers that no more logs can be loaded for China.
New Zealand logs are the country's third biggest export by value, earning $5 billion last year, mostly from China.
Prue Younger, chief executive of the Forest Industry Contractors Association, said the outbreak had made for "a very complex situation".
Younger said about a third of contractors were carrying on as normal, a third had curtailed their logging, and the remaining third had stopped logging altogether.
"The industry is reeling a bit, as you would expect," Younger said.
"But there is some optimism around. When they get back to work next week, the Chinese Government will obviously want to get the economy up and running," she said.
"Chinese banks will be open and there will be the possibility that letters of credit will be restored," she said.
The New Zealand Forest Owners Association said that the extended New Year public holiday made it difficult to know what was going to happen when sawmills in the PRC restart.
Association president Peter Weir said log ships continued to be unloaded in China.
"There is industry concern that if the virus were to infect more people in coastal towns and cities then access to Chinese ports could be restricted with little warning," he said.
The outbreak comes on top of new supplies of softwood into China, due to the salvage of insect and windstorm damaged spruce forests in Central and Eastern Europe.
Warmer winters and longer summers have led to very high rates of spruce beetle infestation with large areas of forests being clear-felled and salvage logs railed and shipped to China.
In the coming year, exports of bushfire damaged pine logs from Australia also have the potential to increase the softwood supply to China, he said.
However, he said it was possible that the disruption from coronavirus could turn out to be brief.