O’Connor recognises how pandemic has affected the economy and its primary players

Agriculture  Minister   Damien  O’Connor  says   the primary sector   will  play a critical  role  in  NZ’s  economic   recovery  once the country    emerges   from the  Covid-19 lockdown.

It is the first  time  (at  least  within  Point of Order’s close  surveillance of the  issue)  that  a coalition  minister has acknowledged   how the pandemic  has shifted  the  dial  inside  the   economy.

O’Connor   says  there   is no shortage of  demand for  what NZ  produces.

Our primary sector is part of the solution to global food security concerns in the short-term”.

 The government is working alongside the primary sector to help ensure workers get to the places they are needed.

We are currently investigating further ways we can boost the primary sector essential workforce through the government’s $100m redeployment scheme.

 “I know, from conversations I’ve had with industry leaders, that the primary sector is very conscious of the fact that it is in the privileged position of being deemed an essential service.

“They are very aware that other sectors are doing it tough and they want to do what they can to help. They know, just as the government does, that the best thing to do right now is keep people connected to jobs.

“The government is doing that through the wage subsidy that has paid out about $6bn to date, the primary sector wants to give those who have lost jobs opportunities in its sector”.

Noting  the horticulture sector has long been one of NZ’s star performers, contributing around $6bn a year to the economy, O’Connor  says it is also becoming a lifeline for a number of redeployed workers from industries such as tourism, forestry and hospitality.

NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc. reports some businesses now have a workforce of over 90% NZers, compared with around 50% last season. Last week, more than 100 workers were placed in jobs in the Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Nelson orchards. The pipfruit industry has seen around 200 workers from other industries placed into jobs across the country.

O’Connor,  underlining  workers are in high demand,  says  around 20,000 more are needed.

He thanks farmers, growers, meat workers, fruit pickers and all the others who are helping the primary sector to keep operating as an essential service during the Covid-19 global pandemic.

In the  context  of  how  vital  the primary  sector  has become   not only in providing  jobs but   also in  keeping  foreign exchange flowing into  the economy,   there was    positive    news  from  two channels  this  week.

The ANZ World Commodity Price index dropped 2.1% in March, but in local currency terms the index actually lifted 3.3% due to a sharp fall in the NZ dollar.

The  latest Fonterra global  dairy trade  auction index   this week  gained  1.2%,   a  welcome  change from  the previous  three  recording small  falls..  Wholemilk powder  (the  key commodity  in  determining  Fonterra’s milk payout to farmers)  rose  2.1%  to  $US2820.

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