Farming groups are reassuring members that despite new covid-19 restrictions coming into effect today, the primary sector retains its essential service status and as much as possible it will be business as usual for farmers.
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Commentators believe another factor contributing to the decline in prices could be increased milk production coming out of New Zealand.

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell says milk collection and processing will continue around the country, however tanker drivers will take extra precautions, including keeping their distance and sanitising thoroughly and regularly.

Hurrell says the co-op is taking a cautious approach and has gone a step further than the Government’s requirements and implemented alert level 4 precautions across its greater Auckland operations.

It has closed its Fanshawe Street office and asked staff to work from home.

Fonterra Brands New Zealand sites continue to operate but are also under level four precautions.

The co-op’s London Street office in Hamilton and the Farm Source office in Te Rapa are also closed, with staff working from home.

Auckland Farm Source stores (Pukekohe, Waiuku, Albany, Helensville and Wellsford) are moving to click and collect, while stores outside the Auckland area will remain open. On-site facilities in these stores will be available to use, with physical distancing rules in place.

Hurrell says the co-op will be keeping a close eye on developments in the next few days. It will be taking a cautious approach and will look to restrict on-farm visits across the country for the rest of the week.

Federated Farmers general manager of policy and advocacy Gavin Forrest says under alert level three, tighter restrictions will be placed on meat processing plants in the Auckland region and there may be additional restrictions in plants across the rest of the country.

He says that could affect processing capacity but at this stage it is not expected to be significant.

Farmers looking to send livestock to processing plants in the next week or so should keep in close contact with stock agents and meat buyers.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva says protocols followed by meat processors during the earlier lockdown have been reissued to association members.

Under the protocols, employees observe physical distancing, and in situations where this is not practicable, extra controls are in place including personal protective equipment.

“Companies are recording who is working at the site and in which team,” Karapeeva said.

“This is to facilitate easier tracking and tracing to enable a quick response in the event of a covid-19 positive case so we can help keep our people, their families and communities safe.

“Contact surfaces are also being disinfected regularly.

“Our previous experience shows the protocols are robust and we are confident we will once again be able to continue to operate in a safe manner.”

Because the sector retains its essential service status farmers, their employees and contractors are permitted to travel for work purposes within, into and out of the Auckland region, although travel in the area should be minimised.

There is likely to be a significant police presence so employees should be provided with a contract or authorisation letter for travel.

Farmers are urged to ring the Fonterra service centre on 0800 65 65 68 as soon as possible if any farm staff test positive for the virus.

Dairy farmers can do more together than individually.

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