Potato industry short of workers but not potatoes

Farmers are among the country's essential workers, so farms and fields are remaining busy keeping food on plates. And despite panic-buying, there is no shortage. In fact, New Zealand could survive on potatoes alone.

"We produce about half-a-billion kilos annually," Potatoes New Zealand CEO Chris Claridge told Newshub Nation . "That's 125kg per man, woman and child. We've had between 30 and 50 percent increase in demand from the supermarkets."

Across food production business is booming, driven by people stocking up. There's plenty of food but a shortage of workers as coronavirus fears keep staff away. "What we do need is labour and staff- that's the critical issue going forward, that people feel confident coming to work, they feel safe and we can retain our workforce," says Claridge.

The nation's growers are still in business but in the midst of a level 4 lockdown, business as usual has to change. There are strict safety measures and at least two metres of social distance applies here too. But it's not enough to satisfy every worker.

Some food producers claim a third of their staff is not turning up. That's on top of a shortage of migrant workers for crops like kiwifruit coming at a key time of year. With fruit now in season, growers and packers are frantically searching to find enough staff.

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