Coronavirus: Now is agriculture's time to shine, says farming leader

A farming leader says the agriculture sector has a vital role in helping get New Zealand through the COVID-19 crisis and minimising the economic fallout.

Primary industries and those who supply farmers and growers have been deemed an essential service under the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne told Rural Today's Dominic George that the sector has an important role to play during unprecedented times.

"We all know that our food lines have to be kept open and the food supply for the whole nation to get through this comfortably and also to help get the nation back on its feet economically as we pull out of this at the other end," said Milne.

She believes those working in the sector understand what is required.

"Everyone totally gets that it is now agriculture's time to shine and help the nation shoulder the burden we are all facing."

Milne said it is imperative that the industry does everything it can to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus.

"It is very serious that we make sure we do this to the best of our ability.

Katie Milne said the ag sector had a vital role to play in getting through the crisis.
Katie Milne said the ag sector had a vital role to play in getting through the crisis. Photo credit: Supplied

"So everyone needs to take this incredibly seriously and do their best to make sure that if they are an essential industry they look after that privilege and make sure that everyone stays well and safe, and don't be the one that spreads this around."

While it was heartbreaking to see industries in financial strife, Milne said it was a time to unite and stay strong.

"If we all stand together and do our best we can get through the other side. 

"The Government has got relief packages to help people through so that  at least we are all going to be fed and watered and stay healthy, is the main thing and the rest can be figured out as we go on because things will get better again."

She said it was important for the New Zealand economy that farmers kept working. 

"Next year when we are supposed to be coming right, if we haven't got crops in the ground and all the things we need then New Zealand will come out worse off.

"If we can keep our heads up and perform really well and keep things ticking over as well as well can, but in a different way, then we have the best opportunity to see NZ come out of this with the least economic harm."

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the Ministry for Primary Industries was working closely with food producers and other government agencies to ensure safe operations during the lockdown.

"The primary sector from the biggest companies, co-operatives, large orchards, right down to the smallest farms must keep high standards in workplaces for their own safety and others' wellbeing," said O'Connor.

He said businesses would need to be registered and follow strict health guidelines to avoid the virus from spreading.