Grower organisation Horticulture NZ has written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to express concerns about independent fruit and vegetable retailers not being classified as essential services under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 and 4.
Hort NZ pointed out that fresh fruit and vegetables sold through independent retailers are different grades than sold in supermarkets and often at more affordable prices.
The letter read: “Independent retailers also sell culturally significant fresh fruit and vegetables in their communities (that aren’t readily available in supermarkets) that form the staple diets of different ethnic groups in New Zealand.”
Horticulture New Zealand is frustrated that independent greengrocers in the Auckland area are being forced to close under the level 3 lockdown. The industry fought hard last lockdown to try to get government approval to continue trading - warning of food waste and financial loss - but was unsuccessful.
Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said it was disheartening that independent grocers in Auckland were once again being put back in this position. He said the disruption to the supply chain meant that there would very likely be wasted produce.
Hort NZ also claims that when New Zealand was in Alert Level 4 and 3 earlier this year, households were significantly impacted by not having access to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from independent retailers, especially lower income households. It added that the closure of independent retailers not only impact consumers, but the horticulture industry as well.
Hort NZ believes that to maintain adequate supply of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables to all New Zealanders, it is critical that both supermarkets and independent retailers are able to operate if they are able to demonstrate they can do so using COVID-19 safe practices.