Survey shows Kiwis' view of farmers more positive than ever in wake of COVID-19

The results were described as a "growing wave of warmth" for farmers.
The results were described as a "growing wave of warmth" for farmers.

COVID-19 has given New Zealanders a new appreciation of farmers, according to a new survey.

Almost three-fifths of those questioned (63 percent) said they held a positive view of sheep and beef farming in the wake of COVID-19. That figure was up 9 percent from just eight months ago.

The survey, completed by UMR Research, questioned 1077 Kiwis between April 21 and 27.

Dairy farmers were also more popular, receiving positive support from 60 percent of respondents, up from 51 percent.

The horticulture sector received the highest rating of 65 percent, while fisheries was given 53 percent positive support, up from 47 percent in August 2019. 

The results come after many have credited those working in the primary industries with keeping the country's economy on track amid the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those opinions were reflected in the survey, with people crediting farmers for working through the pandemic, being an essential industry to the country, providing jobs and being efficient and high-quality producers of food for New Zealand and the world.  

Marc Elliot, director of rural research at UMR Research, said the results appeared to show people were no longer taking critical aspects of the economy for granted amid the current crisis.

"This should be a small shot in the arm for pastoral farmers who are facing droughts, along with looming regulations and long-term uncertainty in the markets,," Elliot said.

"I keep hearing from farmers that one of their main challenges is negative public perception. While there are pockets of hostility towards our farmers, there is also a growing wave of warmth."

The farming sector has received a backlash in recent years, with criticism the industry is damaging to the country's freshwater waterways and responsible for high carbon emissions.

According to the UMR survey, Aucklanders held less positive views of the industry compared to other regions. Young respondents, those aged 18-29, were also less positive in general.

Males aged 60 years and over were the most favourable.