Pork shortage saving NZ meat industry

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NZ Meat industry strong in face of coronavirus outbreak.

A shortage of pork in China means New Zealand’s meat industry won’t be hit too hard by the coronavirus outbreak, Meat Industry Association CEO Tim Ritchie said.

“It’s not a time to panic, but it’s not a time to be complacent,” he said.

The meat industry could expect to see movement in the market this week as coronavirus precautions were lifted, Ritchie said.

An extended Lunar New Year holiday in China had caused congestion for products entering the country and slowed trade. The extension period ended last week and supply chain operations were expected to return to normal, Ritchie said.

“The key will be the extent to which that happens,” he said.

China is one of New Zealand’s biggest meat markets – more so since the country was hit by African Swine Fever, slowing production of its most-popular protein source.

This led to price increases with NZ-sourced meat hitting record asking prices late last year, Ritchie said.

“The beneficiaries have been poultry, beef and sheep meat,” he said.

The outbreak of COVID-19 – a new strain of coronavirus – has, however, caused uncertainty for the industry as market conditions suddenly changed.

Ritchie explained that the outbreak coincided with Chinese New Year celebrations which is typically a social time for the country.

The Chinese government has been encouraging its population to stay home and avoid socialising, Ritchie said.

“That’s had an impact on people eating out.”

The extended holiday period also meant ports were not fully staffed, which caused a slowdown of normal import systems, Ritchie said.

Blue Sky Meats CEO Todd Grave said the situation was dynamic and “changing day-by-day”.

The company’s management team were meeting daily to be able to respond to challenges as they arose but in a letter to shareholders, Grave says the company was diverting product to “solid alternative markets”.

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