Growers forced to dump veggie crops due to lockdown

Growers say they're being forced to dump their veggie crop because most of the retailers they supply have been closed.

The level 4 alert means they can't supply restaurants and cafes either, and they say they're "facing devastation".

But the Government's not willing to budge.

Amid a health crisis, shut-up veggie shops are making Kiwis much-needed five-plus-a-day a lot harder to get hold of with supply cut off - closed and deemed non-essential by the Government.

"Let's start a process where we gradually open some of these outlets so that the fruit and veggies being grown by New Zealanders can be sold to New Zealanders to keep them healthy," Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

The veggie stores supply up to 30 percent of the country's supply and say that part of the food supply chain is facing devastation.

"We have crops that are ready now which can't go to market because they haven't got a market to go to," Chapman says.

One grower says one week before lockdown sales were "tremendous".

"It was better than Christmas," the grower told Newshub.

But that's since dramatically changed.

"With all the hospitality and independent produce shops closed up, demand and distribution has gone."

Take for example just one business such as McDonald's. It spent more than $170 million on New Zealand produce, including 850,000 kg of lettuce and 11 million kgs of potato products.

But at a level four McDonald's is shut and produce has nowhere to go. This leaves just one option for many growers and their fields.

"Some will go to waste, some will go into food rescue or places like that," Chapman says.

The Prime Minister is adamant they remain shut, instead suggesting they contact already-open essential businesses.

"We don't want to see food go to waste, not when there is so much need and not when there's demand," Jacinda Ardern said.

But the growers are already ploughing in their crops and as we head into winter that's food that could be on the table.