Guy Trafford updates what we know about farm operations under the Level 3 and strict Level 4 social restrictions with a focus on the practical considerations

Guy Trafford updates what we know about farm operations under the Level 3 and strict Level 4 social restrictions with a focus on the practical considerations

We all knew this day was going to come; however, most were hoping that we could ‘buy’ a little more time. The good thing about the announcements coming from Government is that food production and processing is considered an essential service and so farming carries on although not quite business as usual.

The biggest change for the livestock sector is that most if not all saleyards will be closed at least for the short term.

So, if farmers need to unload animals pre-winter then working directly with their livestock agents will be the norm. Given that there are going to be the seasonal cattle weaner fairs, the South Island has not got into these yet, plus the transaction of store lambs etc there is still a lot of store stock that will need to be moved around the country as farmers should be thinking about battening down the hatches while there is still some feed able to be grown.

While the list of “essential services” were sounding depressingly short at one point, as the practicalities of the current situation became more obvious there has been a rolling out of more ‘services’. For farmers these include:

Meat processors

Dairy Companies

Veterinary services

Stock firms (including the like of Farmlands)

Mechanical repairs

Fuel supplies

Trucking companies

Presumably fertilizer applications can still go ahead especially as there is little face to face contact in doing this.

And probably a raft more as the need becomes more clear.

The caveat is likely to be if a work site has an actual outbreak of Covid-19 then it is likely to be closed for a period of time so while stockpiling of ‘stuff’ is not advised, people will need to take some common sense precautions.

New Zealand’s clear advantages over most countries are our isolation, which has served us well to date in buying us some time, and our large export and domestic primary sector. The downturn is going to hit hard and fast but we are likely, providing the current measures work in limiting the spread and damage from Covid-19, to be up and running before most other countries as their demand for food products increase.


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In the meantime, the processors have held schedules at their current levels apart from mutton which has had a rise and venison still taking hits.

Wool also continues on its steady decline.

The dollar is taking up much of the slack with the international market bouncing around the 56.5 US cents. Much of the difference is due to the “flight to safety” as people convert gold etc to US currency and strengthen it. The NZ$ got close to parity with the Aussie last week and while back a bit this week is still nipping at it heels showing that traders seem to have more confidence in the New Zealand economy at the moment, although the two are closely linked. So for farmers, there will be no four week break with the shut down, but that is not a bad thing.

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Guy, the 'including their supply chains' tacked onto the 'essential services' definitions is worth thinking through for an Ag setting - the supply chain might be tractor/harvester/implement related instead of the urban TLA example I posed: below is my comment cross-posted from the Morning update:

The Gubmint's definition of 'essential services' (tucked inside the Covid19 Levels blurb here) includes the airy statement 'including their supply chains'.
This raises the eternal question of exactly what constitutes 'essential' parts of a 'supply chain'.
E.g. the 3-waters functions of TLA's are certainly Essential. But suppose a water main blows (we've had four instances in our street over the space of 18 months). That'll need a digger, a tip-truck at minimum. One of them blows a hydraulic hose. That needs the Hose Guy to roll his truck and fix it. So he's Essential too. The Hose Guy gets a flattie on the way to or from the fix, that needs the Tyre Guy to either roll his truck, or stay open. So the Tyre Guy's Essential too.
You can by now discern where this is going. Just how far down the 'Supply Chain'/Bill of Materials does the Essential designation flow? And how to give certainty to the Hose, Tyre, Parts, Mechanics etc firms as to how Essential they are?

We are farmers.
In numerous emails today and yesterday from our suppliers and service providers - the only business not continuing as per usual are our accountants - who will be offering support only by internet from home. Everyone else todate will be continuing - having been defined as "essential services".

Farmers take note: The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) advise they are now requiring all farmers with more than five people (including the owner) working at each business site, to register with them and answer 11 questions about how you intend to stop any spread of COVID-19. This is to provide assurances that your processes protect workers and the public by limiting interactions and reducing the potential spread of COVID-19.
Edit: registration link https://www.mpi.govt.nz/covid-19-essential-primary-sector-service-regist...

I would think trying to make such a list would be impossible , and of not much use. Instead , it would be easier to issue guidelines / rules as to the procedure for determining what is essential.In the digger example , the hose repairer would need an email request from the digger driver, stating he was working on a essential service, and required a repair to continue. That's a "licence" to provide that particular repair , not open the whole shop up for all and sundry.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) now needs assurances from industries and businesses that their processes protect workers and the public by limiting interactions and reducing the potential spread of COVID-19.
We will do all we can to support the sector through this process. However, without these assurances, businesses will not be able to operate.
If you provide an essential service we require you to register with us, and following that we will ask you 11 critical questions about how you intend to stop any spread of COVID-19.
There are a couple of simple questions operators can ask themselves before registering:
Do you have 5 or fewer people (including the owner) working at each business site?
Can you achieve social distancing measures between staff in your workplace, including travelling to and from work?
If you answer YES to both of those questions, then you do not need to register and do not need to fill in the form.
If you answered NO to either of these questions, you MUST fill in the form.
If in doubt, fill in the form.
https://www.mpi.govt.nz/covid-19-essential-primary-sector-service-regist...

There's gonna be a lotta yes/yes answers because, after all, who is actually gonna be able to check up on any of this?

I think once the bulk of the population is isolated that the list of essential services might well creep out a little more. Good to see the meat processors are staying open, the crash in meat prices is certainly welcome from a consumer perspective.

I just spoke to my agent - saleyards are shut but the agents will still arrange paddock sales

If anything the "essential services" list is reducing. A number of businesses - large and small - interpreted the government advice and went public claiming essential services criteria - however since then they have been assessed as either non essential or only essential by appointment or on call. So not business as usual. There are conflicting messages from livestock agents, their original plans to carry on paddock sales have not been confirmed yet, there may be no store market while in lock down with only stock directly entering the food chain being considered essential business.

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