The government has implemented a Level 4 alert which requires all non-essential businesses to close until otherwise instructed to help minimise the spread of the virus. This includes retail butchery shops as the government believes that supermarkets fulfil the same purpose.
The situation caused confusion amongst retail butchers who believed they were allowed open to serve the public until deputy chief executive at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Paul Stocks who has been appointed by the government to lead the essential services topic was interviewed on national radio stating otherwise.
This led to Retail Meat New Zealand being inundated with queries from butchers confused about whether they were allowed to trade or not.
While official guidance states that “any entity involved in the packaging, production and processing of food and beverage products, whether for domestic consumption or export” is an essential business, it was later updated with the additional information: “butchers, bakeries and similar small-scale food retailers are considered non-essential, as similar products are readily available in supermarkets”.
On its Facebook page, Retail Meat New Zealand has been advising its members to stay closed until the matter is resolved rather than breaching the Level 4 alert.
Retail Meat New Zealand general manager Pippa Hawkins explained to GlobalMeatNews the impact this decision would have on butcher shops.
“The reaction to the lockdown in New Zealand has been quite significant for small butchers throughout the country. Many of them have had a significant amount of stock in their stores, panic buying has been huge over the past two weeks and because of this, the butchers have been ordering extra to get them through the lockdown. Because they have now been classified as non-essential, dispensing of that stock is creating a lot of issues.
“There is still a lot of lobbying going to government from our organisation as to what we believe should be the best situation for controlling this virus, and that is that selected small butchers servicing specific needs should be able to be open to serve the country.”