Rules preventing independent greengrocers from trading have lead to huge food waste and potentially, financial loss.
The independents say they can drive supermarket prices down if they are allowed to trade.
Ryan Dury from the Funky Pumpkin in Christchurch said he gave $30,000 worth of produce to the city missions.
“We found out on the day at about one o’clock in the afternoon that trading was to be no more, so we had about four hours or five hours to get rid of our product and whatever we had left was just our problem,” Dury said.
“So we ended up donating ours to the city mission, but because we’ve been trading so well because of all the panic buyers, myself and other fruit and veggie shops were all holding a lot of stock.”
He said the government had not made it clear to independent grocers whether or not they could stay open and that had an effect on how much stock businesses had ordered, increasing the amount of good quality fruit and vegetables going to waste.
“It has been pretty hard to find an answer all the way through, whether we were going to be open or closed.
“Up until that Wednesday [that lockdown began], between one or two in the afternoon – before then we thought we were open, no problem. My personal situation, I’m talking $20,000 or $30,000 worth of stock.
“I know other independents that have stock on hand in six figures worth. It’s a lot of money for a small shop.
“I appreciate the fact that we’ve got our wage subsidies, but that doesn’t pay us and we’ve still got rents to pay as well, it’s tough.”
Today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said greengrocers would not be allowed to open, in order to limit contact between people, said Ardern.
She said the the country could maintain isolation practices with a limited amount of stores open.
“It also means we have fewer workers at risk. For every greengrocer, for every bakery, for every retail store that is open, that’s a workforce that is also put at risk and we need to minimise that as much as possible.”
Continuing to trade
One independent greengrocer in Christchurch said he had continued to trade despite the rules.
“They haven’t told me that I’m trading illegally, they’ve told other independents and closed them down but they haven’t told me.
“I will just carry on trading and we’ll just see what happens. That’s all that I can do, just take one day at a time and just carry on.
“I’m the only independent greengrocer left in Christchurch still trading, the rest have closed down, they’ve had a letter to say they are not to trade and to close down.”
The greengrocer said when the lockdown was announced, he estimated he had between $50,000 and $60,000 worth of stock sitting in his chillers that would have had to be dumped.
“We were told two or three o’clock in the afternoon and we close at (6pm), that’s not long at all.
“Dumping the stock financially would have been tough, as if it isn’t tough enough as it is. If we had known this right from the start, obviously I wouldn’t have been buying stock.”
He said he would definitely like to stay open if he could for his customers.
He said suppliers who don’t have links with supermarkets would end up dumping stock.
“Usually they would sell to independents and restaurants but now they can’t, it will just get dumped. It’s crazy, there’s no need for it, it’s so stupid. It’s all very well relying on the supermarkets but there are others who can do the job, if not better.”
In response to the greengrocer, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi told Checkpoint he should not be trading.
“Every person that he might serve is another potential private contact that could make things worse.”