Agricultural sector under pressure to feed Kiwis amid coronavirus lockdown

Kaitlin Ruddock
Source: 1News

The pressure is on food producers and the agricultural sector to feed the country through lockdown.

Production has halved for some companies, the result of having to comply with new Covid-19 requirements.

Ewing Poultry stocks shelves with one million eggs every eight days.

But with new Covid-19 restrictions, they're having to work twice as hard to do that.

“A lot of jobs take two people to do. It's pretty hard to try and get workflow still happening,” says general manager Paul Ewing.

It's been challenging for many in the primary sector, including meat processors.

“Our capacity has been reduced to around the vicinity of 50 per cent,” Alliance Group Nelson plant manager Steve Baird says.

But that's delaying farmers from sending their stock to slaughter.

“There's a four- to five-week wait for sheep and lamb processing, and there's a five- to six-week [wait] for beef processing,” says Mr Baird.

Many staff are working overtime and weekends.

“If we can't fully achieve the two-metre spacing we have additional personal protective equipment such as visors. We're putting in shields, glasses and gloves to ensure we keep our people safe and that we comply,” says Mr Baird.

“It’s always a challenge when you have to reconfigure your production lines, but overall, people have put safety first and I've been really delighted by that, because they've shown that they care about their communities, just as they care about their exports going overseas,” says Ministry for Primary Industries director general Ray Smith.

He’s looking forward to an ease on restrictions.

“The great thing is, if we move down to Level 3 next week and we've all got our fingers crossed for that, we'll see a lessening of the restriction from the two-metre standing rule down to a one-metre rule in these big production facilities and that will help a lot.”