Rural Support Trust chair Neil Bateup says there is a lot of apprehension among farmers about the future as they follow and experience the disruptions caused by Covid and also by the war in Ukraine.
The apple, pear and nashi crop harvest is well underway, with more than 14,000 workers harvesting around 600,000 tonnes of fruit.
This is destined for domestic and global consumers, and for processing.
While the priority is to provide fruit for New Zealanders, the importance of continuing to export cannot be underestimated.
“New Zealand exports a number of food products and imports a range of other essential goods” says Pollard. “If we continue to supply food to countries that import our food products, we are more likely to be looked after when we need essential goods such as medicines.”
He says the industry understands its privileged position, particularly when other businesses cannot operate.
“In being able to continue to operate, we have three key priorities: the safety of our workers; the prevention of any spread of COVID-19 in our communities; and maintaining food security.”
Pollard says some aspects of current industry practice may be confusing for those not engaged in the industry.
“I am aware of concerns being expressed by some members of the public about the number of people who are sometimes being transported in industry vehicles. In the same way that the community has arranged itself into bubbles often representing family units, so too have our workers,” he told Rural News.
“So, when you see a group of people in a vehicle, they are most likely to be a group who live together, travel together and work together without leaving their bubble”.
Pollard says the industry has worked closely with government agencies to ensure that it complies with a number of regulator guidelines, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, and WorkSafe.
“The additional physical distancing and sanitisation protocols that we have put in place are independently audited by the authorities and that forms the basis of our right to remain operating,” adds Pollard
“We can assure the public that employers in the apple and pear industry are doing all they can to make their workplaces the safest they can be, whether that’s in the orchard, the packhouse or in support roles.”