Drought, Covid-19 fuel concerns over farmers' well-being

Andy Munro
Andy Munro
North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Andy Munro is concerned for the well-being of farmers as they negotiate the ongoing effects of a dry season and the Covid-19 lockdown.

He said last month’s rain was “a great morale booster” for farmers in the drought-affected area in North Canterbury.

“Since that rain four weeks ago, things went pretty quiet. 

"But it’s just a pity we haven’t had a follow-up rain and we really need a good warm follow-up rain, particularly for the farmers from Waipara north to get some growth before winter.

“It’s starting to get dry and cold in that northern part, but other than that it’s business as usual.

“Morale is holding out at the moment, but it’s on a bit of a knife edge.”

Covid-19 restrictions had also led to a lack of capacity at the freezing works, which was adding to stress levels.

Munro said farmers were “feeling for those businesses in town” facing uncertainty due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

He encouraged farmers to support local businesses as those restrictions were reduced.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cameron Henderson echoed Munro’s sentiments.

“We push buying New Zealand-made products from our perspective, so now we need to show that they need us as much as we need them.

“We don’t want to see them disappear. They’re all part of our communities.”

Henderson said the Covid-19 crisis was an opportunity for farmers to reflect on how they could future-proof their businesses.

“Overall, it will make people rethink risk in ways we didn’t think about it before.

“As we look at what crises we could have in the future, we may need to look at having a diversity of produce and of channels for selling or marketing it.

“If you think of multiple dairy farms, if you are looking at buying the neighbour’s farm, should you be looking at doing something different on that farm instead of specialising.”

Munro advised farmers who were experiencing a reduced farm income to discuss with their accountants or with the rural support trust to see if they were eligible for the Government’s wage subsidy or the rural assistance package.

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