Chilean salmon farmer Australis said it has secured new credit lines and is reducing spending on investments as part of a cost-saving drive aimed at getting the company through the worst of the coronavirus crisis and "an uncertain medium-term outlook."

This comes as Australis, owned by Chinese giant Legend Holding, suffered a major earnings slump in the first quarter of the year because of higher costs and lower prices.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) came in at $6.2 million (€5.5 million), down 69 percent year on year.

Sales fell 4.5 percent to $95.1 million (€84.9 million).

Salmon producers and processors found themselves laying out unexpected extra costs to implement hygiene measures and buy equipment to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the first quarter.

Australis harvested 22,243 metric tons of salmon, up from 21,376 metric tons harvested the year prior during the same quarter. Almost 62 percent of harvests were carried out in Chile's southern Magallanes region.

The company sold 17,501 metric tons in the first quarter, up from 16,883 metric tons a year earlier.

In the Atlantic salmon sector, the company reported operational earnings before interest and taxes of $0.73 (€0.65) per kilo, down 42 percent.

Atlantic salmon prices fell 5.7 percent year on year, with trout prices down 11 percent, the company said.