COVID-19 / CORONAVIRUS MARKET UPDATE – ASIA

General overview

The region has responded to the World Health Organisation's call for 'aggressive' action, now that several East Asian nations have reached community transmission of the virus.


Travel

A surge of new cases has prompted sweeping new travel restrictions between nations and social distancing measures within cities and communities.

The largest, most recent change is from Singapore – often considered East Asia's financial capital and one of its leading air travel hubs – announcing that short-term visitors will no longer be permitted to enter or transit through the country from 23 March. No end date is yet in place.

Trade

New Zealand has already taken action to secure the trade of necessities and medical supplies with Singapore, and the two countries have committed to look at the trade of necessities to ensure they are not disrupted.

Viet Nam has also ended all inbound international passenger travel, effective immediately.

The 36th ASEAN summit between South-east Asian and other international leaders scheduled in Vietnam from 6 to 9 April has been postponed to the end of June due to COVID-19 concerns and travel restrictions.

Economy

The economic impact from lost productivity and a dramatic drop in tourism and hospitality is beginning to result in government action, by way of financial aid packages for certain sectors and cuts in GDP forecasts.

ASEAN Economic Ministers issued a joint statement from Da Nang on 11 March emphasising the importance of solidarity, and agreeing that restrictions on cross-border movements should be based on public health priorities, and should not unnecessarily restrict regional trade.

The ASEAN Ministers announced an intention to keep the market open for trade and investment, to strengthen regional information sharing and collaboration in responding to the economic challenges brought about by the outbreak, and to work with industry stakeholders to instil confidence in Southeast Asia as a trade, investment and tourism hub.

However, the volatility of financial markets, often in response to US economic policy announcements, and the economic impact from lost productivity and dramatic drop in tourism and hospitality are beginning to result in financial aid packages for certain sectors and cuts in GDP forecasts. The Philippine Stock Exchange suspended trade indefinitely from 17 March, raising the prospect of other stock exchanges following suit.

Consumer behaviour

There has been an opportunity for exporters in some product categories to adapt to new shopping behaviours in East Asia. Categories such as personal hygiene products, packaged food, and healthcare, have seen an increase in demand; particularly those with a strong online delivery service or supply partner.

Online services and cloud computing products are also well-positioned, with the benefits of eCommerce and B2B products such as remote working software and online education in higher demand than ever.

Exporters are encouraged to keep up to date with changes in media consumption and adjust their marketing spend accordingly during this turbulent time.

Supply Chain, Logistics & Freight

The shift to Alert Level Four in New Zealand will bring challenges to exporters using either sea or air freight for delivery to Asia.While freight services are considered essential and will continue, seaports, airports and carriers are working with reduced staff and capabilities and some delays are likely.

While food exports are considered essential, employers are asked to take extra care to keep employees safe in line with Government recommendations for safe working conditions during the lockdown.

For those businesses with products that can adapt to retail ready format, there is an opportunity for sales in Asian markets. The increased duration of local movement restrictions - currently to 31 March for Singapore, 12 April for Luzon (Philippines) and 14 April for Malaysia - will place inventory levels under pressure, and listing opportunities will open up even under the current conditions. The ability to supply quickly will be key.

Market access and travel restrictions

There are no known additional sanitary or phytosanitary requirements required by governments on market access for primary sector exports and imports due to COVID-19, but demand changes and delivery delays may be applicable. Visit the MPI alerts page for the most up-to-date information.

There have been reports of travellers to some Asian countries being denied entry (particularly in more remote areas) if they possess a Chinese visa in their passport from any time period. Intra-Asia travel may best be arranged through main entry points where facilities are more advanced.

Please see here for a list of official travel restrictions to each country, updated daily by the International Air Transport Association.

As of 20 March 2020, all travellers returning to New Zealand are subject to a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period when returning to New Zealand, and must register with Healthline via 0800 358 5453.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) currently advises against all non-essential international travel for New Zealanders to any destination. Please refer to Safetravel for the latest information for Kiwi travellers.


Market overviews

Indonesia

Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Indonesia.

Japan

Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Japan.

Malaysia

Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Malaysia.

Philippines

Updates on COVID-19 impacts in the Philippines.

Singapore

Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Singapore.

South Korea

Updates on COVID-19 impacts in South Korea.

Thailand

Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Thailand.

Viet Nam

Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Viet Nam.


Re-evaluating the market in the wake of COVID-19

The COVID-19 epidemic is creating challenges for every sector, and exporters have as many questions as any on how to best navigate the difficulties of the months ahead.

It's not surprising that in response to rapidly tightening travel restrictions, business closures and government enforced isolation, consumer needs and delivery channel preferences are changing. How can exporters to the region keep up and respond appropriately, without appearing opportunistic?

Changes in media consumption

Exporters are encouraged to keep up to date with changes in media consumption and adjust their marketing spend accordingly during this turbulent time. While it is impossible to lump East Asian nations together in a one-description-fits-all approach, there are insights from specific markets that New Zealand exporters might like to investigate when reviewing their marketing strategies:

Consumer centric content is even more important

While there is value in maintaining a marketing programme in a time of crisis, the content and direction of messaging will likely need to adapt to audience needs and be sympathetic to potential supply or other consumer issues. Community-building through empathetic social media communication or direct mail may be preferable over product-focused mass media campaigns.

This may also be the time to focus on the consumer's path to purchase, and to take stock of channels and supply partners to improve the online experience.

Adapting to new consumer behaviours

There has been an opportunity for exporters in some product categories to adapt to new shopping behaviours and find new customers. Categories such as personal hygiene products, packaged food, and healthcare, have seen an increase in demand; particularly those with a strong online delivery service or supply partner. Exporters are encouraged to consider how these new customers might interact with the brand in a meaningful way and create a relationship that encourages repeat business once the need to adapt is removed.

For example, some Asian consumer segments traditionally reliant on restaurants and food delivery services may be trying their hand at cooking at home for the first time. If their experience is an enjoyable one, they may choose to keep up the practise, even if only occasionally, once restaurants open again.

Online services and cloud computing products are also well-positioned to find new audiences, with the benefits of eCommerce and B2B products such as remote working software and online education in higher demand than ever. By demonstrating the advantages of these products beyond the immediate need and into other areas such as ease-of-use, time and cost efficiencies, there may be an opportunity for businesses to sustain their advantage beyond the current crisis and create new business and lifestyle habits.

Using this time of unprecedented change to create stronger, trusted relationships with customers, and improved channel delivery will likely prove very valuable in the long term when business returns to 'normal'.


Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

Business.govt.nz
Covid19.govt.nz
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
MFAT Export helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Immigration
Ministry of Health

Global agencies

World health organisation (WHO)
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.