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Omicron looming, with effects already being felt in seasonal industries

It's business as usual for the district's seasonal industries but Omicron is starting to have an impact on the workforce.

Cedenco's sweetcorn and tomato harvests remain in full swing.

“We had our first case of Omicron last week but we're still operating normally,” Cedenco managing director Tim Chrisp said.

“As an exempt critical service we have all the safety procedures in place to manage Omicron. While we're still operating normally we are feeling the impact of an increasing number of virus cases on the processing plant.”

Mr Chrisp said they expected to be in this situation for the next 30 days.

“We don't believe we will reach a point where we will be unable to operate.”

As for the season to date, Mr Chrisp said it has been a bit mixed due to the weather events in November and so far in the harvest season.

“But the Gisborne team have done well and our January production was 14 percent higher than January last year.”

Coxco continues to harvest its squash and this week started its seed maize harvest.

“Omicorn is definitely affecting our squash harvest — in the fields and in the pack house — and has slowed down production overall,” managing director Omi Badsar said.

“As an essential service we have all the necessary procedures in place to protect our staff.

“There is compulsory mask use in the packhouse and people who are close contacts can still work with a rapid antigen test each day.”

Mr Badsar said while the virus had slowed down production “we are ongoing and we are dealing with it as we go”.

“We are prepared for all scenarios and we have backup plans in place if needed.”

LeaderBrand's operations have been impacted as well.

“It's just another thing we have to deal with,” chief executive officer Richard Burke. said.

“It's not making working through the end of our summer crops any easier.

“But at the end of the day the health of our team is really important to us and we will continue to do all we can to keep them safe until we come out the other side of it.

“It's only affecting small pockets of our operation at the moment, which is easier to manage,” Mr Burke said.

“It's not wiping out whole teams, so as long as we keep doing what we are doing, we should be OK.”

Maize producer Viterra started its grain maize harvest yesterday.

“We're not affected by Omicron at this stage,” regional manager Dave Corrin said.

“The trucks we're using have not been affected at this stage, which is good, and we hope it stays that way.”

The company will be harvesting maize through into June.

Corson Grain start its harvest next week.

Procurement manager Richard Hyland said they have not been impacted by Omicorn yet.

“But it has started to affect the truck drivers who cart our maize, so we are concerned what might happen when the virus peaks.”

Viterra maize.