As calls continue from Australian federal politicians for transparency from China in relation to the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic, a South Australian tuna businessman has expressed concern about the potential impact on tuna exports.
Stehr Group chairperson Hagen Stehr has criticised the rhetoric of policitians including Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong in relation to calls for more transparency from China on the origins of the virus, with the concern being any potential boycott of Australian products into the country.
Stehr Group was the first company from Port Lincoln to export southern bluefin tuna into China in late 2015, transporting nearly 100 tonnes as part of an effort to open up a new major export market.
Mr Stehr said China was an important long-term market for the tuna industry and a smarter approach was needed with the Chinese government.
He said Stehr Group was the biggest tuna exporter into China, having invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the market.
"We've got a lot of fish in the water ... most goes overseas," he said.
"We need the Chinese market, whether you love them or not, we need them for the future.
"The government ought to think before they open their big mouths."
Historically the tuna industry had looked towards Japan for the majority of its exports but in recent years has been working towards diversifying exports in Asia and building the market in China.
Mr Stehr said if China stopped buying Australian seafood it would be a bad result for South Australia, but especially for Port Lincoln.
Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said China was a major trading partner but defended the right to find out the virus' origins.
"It's a complex relationship with China, we need to able to continue trade but also express our views," he said.
"The world would like to know how this virus started."