Coronavirus affects Australian agriculture

By Country News

The coronavirus has disrupted agricultural trade and production, with Australian fruit growers feeling the effects.

A Rabobank report said the impact on China’s food service and on-trade channels from coronavirus could become “more serious and longer-lasting” if the virus is not contained in the next six to eight weeks.

Rabobank food and agribusiness research head Tim Hunt said the virus would impact farmers who were reliant on the food service channel in China.

“For example, rock lobster shipments to China have all but ceased in the last couple of weeks, while chilled meat shipments for food service are also a risk category given a lot of hot pot restaurants are closed at the moment,” Mr Hunt said.

He said if coronavirus infections persist, incomes in China would fall, leading to decreased consumption of Australian produce.

Fruit Growers Victoria grower services manager Michael Crisera said the wholesale markets had been tough.

“The coronavirus has been a challenge and has caused a lot of uncertainty in terms of getting fruit into China,” Mr Crisera said.

Ardmona's Integrity Fruit fruit grower Peter Hall said the demand for plum exports had decreased during this year's stone fruit season.

“Some shipments we had planned have been diverted to other destinations because there's been concerns with China's ability to offload fruit,” Mr Hall said.

He said when demand became irregular, the supply decreased in quantity and price, and exporters had to look to different markets to sell their product.

Mr Hall said a quarantine issue that occurred in 2019 was more detrimental to exports than the coronavirus to date, as the full effect of the virus on the Chinese market was unclear.

“It's something we're watching closely, monitoring the effect of supply and volume.”