Growers concerned smaller food producers will miss out amid coronavirus pandemic

Growers are concerned smaller food producers will be left with stock they cannot sell amid the fifth day of the nationwide lockdown.

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The grower's supply chain means his vegetables will get to the dinner table as fast as possible. Source: 1 NEWS

Robin Oakley of Oakley's Fresh Vegetables says there are no issues with his production line, with the grower’s supply chain meaning his vegetables will get to customers as soon as possible.

“There's no need to panic, there is plenty of product,” he said.

However, Mr Oakley is concerned smaller food producers, who usually supply farmers markets or independent greengrocers, will be “stuck with stock which they can’t sell" amid the sudden lockdown.

"I think that some of the independents that didn't know that they were going to be closing, I'm sure they've been stuck with stock on hand that they can't sell."

Not all growers have contracts to distribute to large supermarket chains.

Horticulture New Zealand’s Mike Chapman said they are currently in talks with the Government to request flexibility for smaller food producers to remain in business.

“Can some of these independent retail outlets, like dairies are, open, particularly in areas where there isn't a superrmarket particularly close?,” he said. 

If a solution cannot be found, the excess food, such as tomatoes, will go to waste.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said allowing those stores to open would "undermine what we're trying to do, which is limit the public's contact with workers".

An exception for all non-essential businesses to close has since been made for companies such as Food Box, which delivers fresh produce. The food delivery service has seen a large jump in demand in the last 14 days.

“We have changed our range, so we were customised boxes. What we've done is we've narrowed it down so we're only offering four standard boxes now so that we can keep up with demand,” Food Box's Alice Brody said.

Worker safety is imperative for people ensuring the produce bins are full, meaning growers must think up innovative ways to enforce the two-metre rule.