Sales of sucker pigs into the migrant markets of Cabramatta and Sydney's China Town are down by as much as 20 per cent due to rising panic over the impending coronavirus outbreak, according to Camden branch manager of Jim Hindmarsh and Co, Steve Nutt.
"We used to send 60 to 70 suckers a week into those restaurants but over the last month the trade has been very quiet," he said.
"I try to take a few suckers from each producer in turn and juggle it around. Most will feed on and bring those suckers to light or medium pork categories.
"Hopefully we will turn a corner before then but right now we are in unknown territory. There is real panic out there."
The situation was exacerbated by the temporary closure of the Picton meatworks by NSW Food Authority, with pigs sent for slaughter to Cowra and Milton. As a result there was no pig sale at Camden this week.
Meanwhile the coronavirus outbreak continues to stall export efforts with about 70 per cent of Northern Co-operative Meat Company product into China still stuck in the supply chain. Some 30pc is slowly moving into market.
"We understand schools and restaurants will start to re-open in the first two weeks of this month and by the end of March we expect a return to normality," said NCMC CEO Simon Stahl, who noted other markets in Europe and the US would begin to be affected after that time.
Sales of tanned hides have taken a double hit as a result of the virus inflicted slowdown, with leather manufacturers in China and now Italy unable to produce as before.
"We were coming out of a slump in hide sales but this will delay that recovery," he said.
As to the longer term, Mr Stahl said the virus scare would be good for the reputation of Australian food, with quality and traceability at "one hundred per cent" while producers continue to follow best practice.
Hunter based Robert Mackenzie, Woko Station, whose direct sales of Mackas Angus beef into China were disrupted by the virus outbreak, said now more than ever consumers would be conscious of eating quality product from producers they could trust.
"People need protein and they want quality," he said. "This coronavirus impact will be a short term thing."