Coronavirus: Uncertainty over farming's Gypsy Day

Uncertainty surrounds plans for the farming community's annual Gypsy Day should the COVID-19 lockdown be extended. 

The traditional moving day, held on June 1, allows sharemilkers who own cows but not the land, to change farms to begin new contracts.

It involves thousands of cattle across the country moving to new pastures for winter grazing.

South Taranaki dairy farmer Trish Rankin said there was some concern about what might happen if the lockdown restrictions were still in place.

"Right now people are thinking, 'what if this lockdown continues? What if I can't move inter-regionally? What if I can't do what I need to do on June 1?."

"That is a big one, especially for the dairy sector, that will be causing some anxious times," said Rankin.

South Taranaki farmer Trish Rankin says uncertainty around annual Gypsy Day is a concern for farmers.
South Taranaki farmer Trish Rankin says uncertainty around annual Gypsy Day is a concern for farmers. Photo credit: Supplied

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said it was an issue he and his officials were aware of, and working on.

"Every day exposes a new set of questions.

"This is new territory for the world and certainly for us. We are looking at those things, we are aware these are coming up," O'Connor told Rural Exchange.

He said plans were being looked at to handle Gypsy Day in case there were still restrictions.

"Already we have people wanting to move farms now and they are unable to. 

"We are doing what we can and we will get the messages out as quickly as we can."

Meanwhile, O'Connor urged those still working in the agriculture sector as an essential service to take great care.

"We have a lot of fruit picking going on, a wine harvest, a lot of very high-risk activity going on and we cannot afford to have an outbreak from that."

He said it may also mean reduced productivity at meat processing plants, due to extra health and safety rules to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"It may be they are only operating at 50 percent capacity, so be it, we just have to make sure we don't spread this virus.

"We have to help one another to do the right thing."