Coronavirus: Meat exporters 'cautiously optimistic' situation will improve

Meat exporters are confident the world's appetite for protein remains strong despite the spread of coronavirus.

According to Statistics New Zealand, meat exports to China have dropped to $170 million in the last four weeks, down from $280 million in the same period last year.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie says the underlying demand still remains and he is hopeful the global trade flow will soon recover.

"One would imagine that the Chinese authorities are going to make sure that the population gets the protein, has access to the product that they need," he told Newshub.

With the demand still there, Ritchie says it's simply a logistical problem getting the meat to market.

"Maybe they will take that product in a different way, and rather than eating out at restaurants and socialising there'll be more e-commerce and more product sold at retailers."

Almost 90,000 people have been infected with coronavirus - officially called COVID-19 - so far, the majority of those cases in mainland China. On Monday, the death toll worldwide surpassed 3000.

New Zealand recorded its first confirmed case on Friday and two further people who were in close contact with that person - on a plane from Dubai - are in self-isolation awaiting test results.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday announced a $4-million Government fund to help businesses struggling with the economic impacts caused by the virus.

Ritchie says he is hopeful the meat industry will soon recover.

"Where they are able to they will be diverting products to other markets. I think [I'm] still cautiously optimistic products will start to flow again in China."

The meat industry isn't the only sector struggling with the fallout from coronavirus. The dairy, forestry and wool industries have also felt the impact on global supply chains.

Also hurting are the education and tourism sectors. More than 11,000 foreign students have been prevented from entering the country due to travel bans in place aimed at halting the spread of the virus. 

That ban was extended on Monday for a further seven days, and now not only affects flights to and from mainland China but also Iran, with travellers from South Korea and northern Italy also now required to self-isolate upon arrival.