OPINION: Once again there's a flurry of activity as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister of Trade Damien O'Connor and a band of dedicated officials and leading agricultural representatives fly into Brussels where the powerful European Union is based.
He believes this is an opportunity for farmers – and others in the sector – to sell the story of how we produce our quality food.
O’Connor told Rural News that he’s proud of the way that the agri sector has adapted to the new set of circumstances.
He says they have had to meet the new health requirements in various workplaces – be it in an orchard, packhouse, food processing or meat processing plants.O’Connor says it’s great to see people doing the right thing.
“I think the primary sector have respected the opportunity they have been given and are supporting our objective of trying to get ahead of this virus.”
O’Connor’s been following social media and reckons most of the comments he’s seen are pretty sensible and endorse the general direction that the Government is taking.
“While there are anomalies around retail outlets and distribution of fruit and vegetables, we accept they are not perfect,” he says.
“We are trying to ensure that the production that comes from the primary sector does get to the customer – be it domestic or overseas.”
O’Connor says no one wants to see wastage of food at all in the area of vegetable production and says it is terrible to see food not fully utilised. He acknowledges that the restrictions under Level 4 lockdown have put pressure on some commercial growers.
He concedes that COVID-19 has added to the pressure that farmers had been feeling with the drought and general financial pressure.
However, O’Connor believes that rural people – many of whom live in isolated places – are possibly coping with the lockdown better that those in the larger cities.