Coronavirus: Why it's come at the worst time for New Zealand farmers

The outbreak of coronavirus in China has created the perfect storm for many New Zealand farmers, already coping with drought-like conditions.

Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard said the situation was impacting on meat exports, as Chinese authorities restricted movements to try and contain the virus.

"Basically the logistics aren't happening in terms of unloading ships, there's a whole range of difficulty in getting the products through to the market.

If the virus spreads to other parts of the world, and there are similar types of restrictions on people's movements we could see quite a disruption in global trade which is never good for NZ," said Hoggard.

Coupled with the dry conditions across many parts of the country, it was taking a toll, he said.

"It's really bad timing-wise, as it's at the exact time as things are getting dry on the farm across the country, so farmers are looking to offload stock to better manage less pasture.

"Unfortunately, the works have got nowhere to put the product, or they can only send reduced quantities, and it impacts in terms of how we cope with usual management of drought by reducing stock numbers."

He advised farmers coping with the dry conditions to try and source supplementary feed from elsewhere.

"That would be the key thing to source surplus feed if it is hard to move stock on."

Meanwhile Agriculture Minister, Damien O'Connor said the situation highlighted the heavy reliance the sector had on the Chinese market.

"A third of all exports in one market, it's a lot," said O'Connor.

O'Connor told Magic Talk's Rural Exchange that while companies had different strategies and exposure to China, it was important to keep good connections with other markets. 

"We only produce a small amount of protein in food for the world, so we just have to keep market opportunities open.

"A third of all our exports in a country that is growing rapidly, but can be subject to these things like coronavirus, is something we have to be more astute and plan more carefully for in my view," he said.

The death toll in China from the coronavirus is now at least 305. 

There are also more than 14,300 confirmed cases in China alone.