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Essential food teams need more staff

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Keeping food on the table is trickier under COVID-19 physical distancing conditions, but Hawke’s Bay’s food producers are focused on the task.

Hastings’ primary industry starred in national media this week, with a call for more workers. The need to keep everyone safe through physical distancing, from pickers in the field to the staff in pack houses and processing factories, means more people are needed across a whole range of steps in the food production process.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst is focused on ensuring people who may have lost their normal employment because of the virus are aware of other opportunities available.

“Our economy is our fertile land and what we harvest from it. To keep our economy moving, we must support our primary producers and keep our people in jobs.”

Wattie’s alone needs 200 more staff, from engineers and electricians to processors; seasonal and permanent. The focus is on keeping up production, while ensuring staff are safe, says Wattie’s managing director Neil Heffer.

“Our people have been magnificent in adapting to the new protocols that range from the changeover of shifts to social distancing in the operating areas (with screens on production lines where that is not possible) and seating arrangements in the cafeteria.”

“Our people have been amazing and we take our hats off to them. They have had to deal with altered family situations, households in lockdown and new workplace protocols, and they come to work eager to do what they can.”

Mrs Hazlehurst says like health workers, emergency service teams and many other essential workers, the people working in food production are making a huge contribution to keep our food supply rolling. “I feel so proud of the hardworking people working in the industry here in Hastings through this difficult time.”

She is encouraging people looking for work to consider the food sector. “As we move out of this lockdown time, the food sector will continue to be incredibly important and people can be very proud to be part of it.”

15 April 2020

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