Business as usual under Covid

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By DAVID HILL

While it is largely business as usual for the region’s farmers, Covid-19 is having an impact on the rural sector.

While the move to Alert Level 3 is a step in the right direction, it is still lockdown and its impact will depend on how long it remains in place, Canterbury Rural Advisory Group chairperson Winton Dalley says.

Covid-19 is just the latest challenge to knock the sector, on top of drought and flooding.

“I’m not getting any reports of serious issues. The shearing sector is carrying on with social distancing and those who I’ve spoken to have systems in place,” Mr Dalley says.

“I’m not hearing of any issues in meat processing in Canterbury and I understand that as an essential service they have been given priority for Covid vaccinations.

“And I’m not aware of any supply chain issues yet. Most products are moving OK. Things will be a bit slower, but there’s no reports of any serious shortages.”

Rural sector leaders are continuing to hold regular Zoom meetings to keep up to date on the multiple challenges facing the rural sector.

Level 4 restrictions meant shearing gangs and freezing works operated at a reduced capacity and Level 3 would make little difference, so a prolonged stay in lockdown will potentially lead to a backlog, Mr Dalley says.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we are in for tighter restrictions under Level 3 than we were last time and we could be there for a while yet.

“For farmers needing to de-stock and lambs contracted for the spring period, it will be impacted, so any slow down in those processes will cause some stress.

“We’re also at the peak of calving, which means the bobby calf kill may be held up, so there’s a lot of potential issues.”

Covid-19 is causing some delays for international shipping, impacting on New Zealand’s primary exports and the ability of farmers and contractors to import new machinery.

Recruiting staff for the new season is also a challenge due to border restrictions and New Zealand’s relatively high employment rate.

After the autumn drought and flooding, farmers were holding out for some spring growth, Mr Dalley says.

“All we can do is plan for the worst and hope for the best and anything better than that is a bonus.”

The best farmers can do is look after themselves, their families and staff to get through the latest challenges.