Te Puke-based Trevelyans is one of the largest packhouses in the Bay of Plenty. The company packs kiwifruit, avocados, limes and feijoas. It also provides orchard management services.
Managing director James Trevelyan said that when word of COVID first came on the radar, his mind immediately turned to 2010, when he was in a meeting with the then boss of Zespri discussing what was happening with PSA in Italy. He says when PSA arrived in the country later that year, he had a good understanding of what was needed in NZ.
Fast forward to January 2020, and Trevelyan was talking to a friend in Italy about the COVID-19 crisis who was involved in the kiwifruit sector in that country.
“When I put down the phone, I quickly realised that we needed to act now and talked this through with my team,” he says. “From then on, I kept in contact with this friend to learn how the Italians were dealing with the situation. I also had a friend in London to keep me briefed on the situation in Europe.”
The other person who also helped Trevelyan more effectively manage the COVID crisis was a Chinese cleaning lady at the packhouse.
“She was from Wuhan, the centre of the epidemic, and I started asking her about how her family were dealing with the pandemic,” he stated. “Later, I made contact with a Japanese man and the information that these people provided helped shape how we dealt with the crisis.”
Trevelyan says social distancing was a problem, but screens were erected to protect staff and there was a strong emphasis on meeting hygiene requirements. He admits that production at the packhouse ‘creaked and groaned’ during Alert level 4. However, he says in the end they got through the crisis better than many others.
Trevelyan estimates that he spent $500,000 dealing with COVID-19. This included obtaining extra labour, screens and tents and extra hygiene facilities.