A group representing a range of agriculture businesses has called for more to be done to protect New Zealand's food supply in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The animal medicines and crop protection lobby group Agcarm said it applauded the government's efforts to protect the health of New Zealanders in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but wanted that support extended to the farming community for maintaining essential food supplies.
"Our rural communities are needed more than ever to ensure that this health crisis doesn't turn into a hunger crisis," said Agcarm chief executive Mark Ross.
He said food production needed to be prioritised as an essential part of the COVID-19 response.
"We must maintain the uninterrupted movement of animal medicine and crop protection products, seeds and feed so that our farmers can keep healthy livestock and maintain an abundant supply of meat, fruits, vegetables and grains."
He warned that any delays could put food supplies and animal welfare at risk in the short and long-term.
"It's one thing to have enough toilet paper, quite another if people find that the supply of fresh fruit, veg and meat is put under strain."
The New Zealand animal medicine and crop protection manufacturers, veterinarian clinics and rural distributors were working hard to continue providing the farming community with the tools it needs to maintain a stable food supply, he said.
"We stand ready to cooperate and help in any way we can to ensure food security does not add to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic," says Ross.
The association had developed a list of requirements for the continued supply of food.
The list included:
• Animal medicine and vaccine manufacturers and suppliers are classified in the same way as those for people.
• The border remains open to imports and exports of crop protection and animal medicine products.
• Animal medicine and crop protection research sites, warehouses, and critical operational staff (eg rural vets and technicians) are exempt from any lockdown requirements.
• The Ministry of Primary Industries supports the release of products in offshore countries that are needed for our animals and crops.
• No restrictions are placed on internal freight within New Zealand for the supply of animal medicines and crop protection products to rural distributors, veterinarians and farmers.
"These measures will mean that we have a healthy food supply when we need it the most," said Ross.