Farmer Focus: Farming is vital to virus-hit NZ economy

We have been in a nationwide lockdown for four weeks, with only “essential services” allowed to operate.

We are fortunate in that we have been able to go about the normal farm programme while being supported by our associated service industries and processors.

It could be argued that had we closed the borders earlier, we may have preserved the operation of the domestic economy.

That said, it appears that a drastic lockdown is, thus far, seeing our case numbers fall quickly with our government now pursuing an “elimination” strategy. Covid19 is such a nasty bug, it would be very unwise to think we have beaten it yet.

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Tourism has been wiped off the map for the foreseeable future with an effect on the economy comparable to a complete collapse of the dairy industry.

Added to that, our hospitality sector is taking a hiding from the lockdown and will suffer both from an ongoing lack of tourists, but also from the reduction in domestic discretionary spending going forward.

There is no doubt grim times are ahead for many in New Zealand. Our economy has been shattered in the past six weeks.

Primary production is now, more than ever, the key source of foreign earnings for our wee country. The last few years it has been politically expedient to cast farmers and growers as public enemy number one.

Now it seems our politicians, business leaders and economists are giving us a smile and a wink, and a bit of a pat on the back.

Our own economic future is fragile as we are selling into world markets that themselves have taken a pummelling, so caution is needed.

But in the meantime, we are needed more than ever, both to produce safe, nutritious food to export, but also to support our friends in other sectors who are hurting.

Our builders, contractors, trucking firms, local retailers, everyone downstream that we deal with desperately need our help.

Now is our time to bring forward maintenance or development projects, or anything else we can find to get those guys and girls back to work and help them back onto their feet. Take care.

David Clark runs a 463ha fully irrigated mixed farm with his wife Jayne at Valetta, on New Zealand’s South Island. He grows 400ha of cereals, pulses, forage and vegetable seed crops, runs 1,000 Romney ewes and finishes 8,000 lambs annually.