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Thursday, 02 April 2020 09:32

Primary sector responds to COVID-19 challenge

Written by  Peter Burke
Ray Smith. Ray Smith.

MPI director general Ray Smith has praised the country’s farming leaders for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith says while primary food production is in business, but it’s not business as usual and we used to know it.

More than the 100 primary sector industry leaders he spoke to on a video link took that message on board and have been working on innovative solutions to deal with the crisis. Smith says it’s pleasing to see them being prepared to yield a bit to ensure the best outcome for the country. 

He cites as an example of this the protocol that has been agreed by the meat processing companies to keep their works operating, albeit at a much lower level of production. MPI set out its criteria and industry came up with a solution that will keep its workers safe and plants open for business.     

Currently about 90% of MPI’s 3500 workforce are operating from home, but many staff – such as those in biosecurity at airports and shipping terminals – are still working in the field.

“We also have people out on the road undertaking verification duties, there are still people who need to certify products for export and all those sorts of things that are needed to keep the systems flying. Some will still turn up on farm depending on what the circumstances are.” 

Smith, himself, is one of three staff working from MPI’s head office in Wellington where normally 1200 people work. He says half his executive team are working from home, but they hold two major conference calls each day to make sure plans are in place to deal the COVID-19 implications for the rural sector.

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