Coronavirus: Primary industries join forces to protect supply chain
Farmers, growers and exporters are upping their efforts to ensure they can kick Covid-19 to touch and protect New Zealand's primary sector.
Dairy NZ, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers and Fonterra are among the agricultural organisations that have introduced new measures to make sure Kiwis can continue to get their milk, meat and other produce from their supermarkets.
All are being challenged to come up with new, innovative methods to communicate and work under the unusual conditions.
Most are adopting online video technology so they can meet virtually to make important decisions. They're also encouraging farmers and gowers to migrate to the online world, because face-to-face meetings are out of the question.
Dairy NZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle, who is based in Hamilton, said developing new farm management practices and securing support services for farmers, were the two big focus areas.
"With farm management, it's about looking after people, using practical tips and ideas on how to minimise the risk of coronavirus.
"Secondly, we need to make sure farmers have the services which they need to produce their products, that could be fertiliser, it could feed supply."
Mackle said it was important those support services could continue to supply farmers over the next four weeks.
Social distancing and increasing hygiene around farms was at the top of the list for food producers, Mackle said.
"Farming has got its own inherit isolation which is good. The risk of transmission is lower.
"I think farmers, with a lot of their own issues around M.Bovis, already are more aware of biosecurity issues and they understand the risk of infection."
Mackle said protecting the supply chain was important for New Zealand and for people living in export markets like China.
"We need to play our part but work together to kick this Covid to touch, to keep the whole value chain from this disease."
DairyNZ's head office was in the Waikato and it had tapped into larger farming businesses, to develop new practices to help farmers lower the risk.
Fonterra, for example, is using temperature testing on site for any employees who are required to be in the workplace.
In a statement, the dairy company said some sites may introduce new working arrangements to ensure the chances of transmission of Covid-19 are minimised.
"This could include additional site access restrictions, restrictions on how people get to site, and changes to shift arrangements."
Hand sanitiser is provided and required before entering any of its buildings.
NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated Chief Executive Officer Nikki Johnson said she was happy the industry's picking, packing and associated supply chain had been confirmed as an essential service.
She said there were new draft protocols for harvest and post-harvest being worked through with the Ministry of Primary Industries.
Securing a workforce for the season, and keeping them safe, was next on the list.
"The key will be around hand washing and distancing.
"We will look at spreading workers across an orchard, they will empty their bags into their bins at different times and we're probably going to stagger break times."
NZKGI's head office is based in Tauranga. It had 2600 growers around the country and needed about 20,000 workers in a normal season, which finishes in June.
Some workers expected for the season, under the RSE scheme, didn't arrive because of travel restrictions.
Johnson said the organisation had reached out to those in the hospitality, tourism and forestry industries, who may be out of work, to help pick this season's crop.
"There may be people who can't work in their own industries because the country is going to level 4, and we be able to put people into roles and keep them safe."
Beef + Lamb New Zealand postponed all face-to-face events and switched to using webinars, video calls and podcasts, to connect with farmers remotely.
"This is a part of our business we've been actively investing in over the last few years so we're prepared," the organisation's chief executive Sam McIvor said in a statement.
"Our farmers recognise the critical role they play in producing food and maintaining New Zealand's economic viability, through supporting local businesses and earning export revenue for the country.
"They also realise it's vitally important we play our part in stamping out the spread of this virus. We're appreciative of the support and trust of the government to get on and do our jobs."
McIvor said it was a challenging period for farmers, processors and exporters.
"But we are a world leading industry and our leadership in New Zealand is required right now and we're determined to play our part in supporting all New Zealanders."