UPDATE 1-Fonterra flags potential hit to China dairy imports by coronavirus

(Adds context, details)

Feb 28 (Reuters) - New Zealand’s Fonterra , the world’s largest dairy exporter, said on Friday its exports to China rose 13.8% in December, but warned that the coronavirus outbreak “will potentially impact” shipments from January.

The rapidly spreading outbreak, which is feared to be tipping into a pandemic, has disrupted supply chains and businesses globally, with a rapid rise in infections outside China where the disease originated.

“The outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus will potentially impact import numbers after December 2019,” Fonterra said in a statement. It plans to give an update on the impact of the epidemic when it releases its interim results next month.

The dairy giant on Thursday lowered its forecast milk collection for the 2020 fiscal year across New Zealand to 1,515 million kilograms of milk solids, citing ongoing challenging weather conditions.

On Friday, the New Zealand dairy company said its exports from Australia fell 9.5% in December as devastating bushfires ravaged large swathes of land.

Other businesses in Australia and New Zealand have flagged a hit to earnings due to the virus outbreak, including Penfolds wine label owner Treasury Wine Estates and New Zealand’s flagship carrier Air New Zealand.

Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job and Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Pullin