Tuesday, 24 March 2020 09:39

Sector critical for NZ

Written by  Peter Burke
Rowena Hume. Rowena Hume.

Protecting farmers and key workers in the rural sector must now be a high priority as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic start to hit this country.

Rowena Hume, Beef+LambNZ’s engagement and communications manager, says the primary sector is critical to NZ.

“If we look after the people in the agricultural sector, we are looking after NZ.”

Last week, BLNZ cancelled all its events as part of a plan to protect food producers and others in the red meat supply chain to ensure the flow of primary exports. As well, the red meat industry body has suspended all international travel for staff and restricted domestic travel. It has also sent out an email to all producers setting out the steps BLNZ is taking to protect farmers and those in the supply chains. 

Hume says what the COVID-19 has shown is the importance of the agricultural sector for NZ. 

“For next little while agricultural exports are going to be vital because we are seeing the impacts on the tourism sector and also the forestry sector,” she told Rural News. “Hopefully agricultural trade will keep happening.”

She said the reasoning behind BLNZ cancelling its events and travel is to protect farmers and ensure that they and others in the red meat supply chain don’t get sick. Hume says the meat processing companies are quite concerned at the moment that if a staff member got sick they may have to close down the plant – hence the plans and protocols to protect the people in the ag sector.

“We also want farmers to feel some pride and be aware that they and those in the processing industry are really important at this critical time. We have seen trade start to come back on line in China – so there are some positive opportunities for us going forward,” she says.

Rethink policies

Hume notes that, at present, many farmers are suffering stress from drought as well as the threat of a raft of new environmental legislation. 

She says this is the time when both government and policymakers should be seriously rethinking some of these policies and asking whether these are right thing to do in the current economic environment. 

Meanwhile, in an email to farmers, Beef+LambNZ says it will be looking at other ways it can stay in touch with each farmers and get the tools and information needed: such as social media; potential delivery of workshops online; podcasts; webinars; and emails.

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