According to Horticulture New Zealand, the nation’s government has been asked for flexibility to allow more independent grocers and other food outlets to fully open at Level 3. The lockdown has crippled produce supply to New Zealanders despite supermarkets staying open and many independent growers and grocers say their businesses might not survive the next few weeks.
Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said the Covid-19 crisis had stopped nearly 30 percent of fresh produce making it to retail shelves. While many smaller independent grocers once provided some competition to the big supermarkets, Chapman said the lockdown had tipped the uneven playing field for produce growers even further.
"Some growers are really busy supplying as much as they can to the supermarkets. And other growers are sitting there wondering, should they plant because they've got nowhere to sell their vegetables."
Chapman said the sector supported the need to keep New Zealanders safe during lockdown but added opening some smaller retailers in level 3 was crucial for the sector. He said growers still had to balance the responsibility to keep New Zealand's domestic fruit and veggie supply running but many may not survive another few weeks.
Horticulture NZ submitted a request to the government for the one-in, one-out policy to be available for more outlets. It also presented an operating procedure plan on how independent retailers could operate safely but is yet to receive a response.
"There aren't enough outlets to get the food out. Our suggestion is, get as many outlets as you can safely open as possible," Chapman said. "Under level 3 we are certainly saying perhaps there can be some more flexibility and the prime minister has talked about 'click and collect' and stuff like that which we're fully supportive of. But we're hoping for just a little bit more flexibility to get just as many outlets operating as possible."