Farmers are warning of huge pressures on food supply if they're not considered part of the critical workforce.
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The government has laid out its three-phase plan to tackle Omicron, which would allow critical workers who are close contacts of a case to return to work after a negative rapid antigen test.

But they haven’t defined exactly which workers it covers yet.

Federated Farmers National President Andrew Hoggard told Checkpoint that farmers and other workers in the industry definitely met the criteria of being critical due to looking after animals and producing food.

Using his own occupation as a dairy farmer as an example, he said the entire labour chain that supported him was important, including tanker drivers, milk processors, delivery van drivers and supermarket workers.

“It’s about ensuring the entire chain can keep functioning.”

Farming bosses are meeting the Ministry of Primary Industries tomorrow to get more understanding on how critical workers will be defined.

He understands there will be an online register to be filled out in two weeks’ time to get workers listed as critical.

Hoggard said if his workers who live in town were infected with Omicron or named as close contacts he would be among many farmers who would need to do a lot of extra hours.

“Potentially if we’ve got issues in the supply chain, that could create a helluva lot of stress and pressure in the support industries.”

His whole operation could be at risk if, for example, people could not come to repair machinery.

“If we see similar to what we’ve seen overseas, where you’ve had a big percentage of the workforce needing to isolate or can’t come to work, there could be quite a lot of disruption on farm.”

Asked if farmers were as ready as they could be for the onset of Omicron, he said time will tell. The challenge will be for farmers if the supply chains break down. In a drought farmers might need to send stock to the works to reduce stock to manage the feed supply.

“If processes have to shut down that’s going to create quite a lot of stress.”

Kraft Heinz Co. has voluntarily recalled approximately 83,800 cases of American processed cheese slices.

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