The food industry is still trying to understand the impact Cyclone Gabrielle will have on the food supply but there will be gaps on supermarket shelves, says FGC Chief Executive Raewyn Bleakley.

She says it is very early days in understanding the impact, but the areas most affected will fresh fruit and veges and dairy, where the impact on livestock had hit milk production.

“But fresh produce is the big area that will see the ongoing impacts [on supply].

“We are also seeing interesting challenges to the supply chain, which was already under pressure … for a number of reasons internationally and domestically – we’ve got fuel prices going up, we’ve got labour shortages, and we’ve had driver shortages in New Zealand which you’ve seen play out in the heavy vehicle area.

“We’ve then had the massive impact to the transport network. In terms of roading, we’ve got many state highways that are out, and will be out for months.  and maybe won’t be back to state highway standard for years. We’ve got arterial routes that are challenged, and we’ve had the InterIslander go down.”

She said FGC was keeping a watching brief as the data from MPI and other industry associations comes in, to help understand what that means for fresh produce and for manufacturing.

“A lot of people may not know that what you grow to buy at the supermarket as fresh produce is different to what is grown to be made into other products – it has different characteristics. And so, we are getting a picture of which areas have been hit and when those supply challenges will come down the track and in what product lines.”

She said New Zealand would not run out of food because it produces a lot for domestic and international consumption, “so we won’t run out of food as a net position, but we will have gaps and we will experience differences between what we want and what we need”.

She said filling those gaps is going to take a while.

“The best thing people can be prepared to do is to be flexible. Try and look at it as an opportunity to be flexible and try new products. We have amazing entrepreneurial companies that will find ways of doing things differently – it’s a great opportunity to experiment.”

Listen to her interview with Sean Plunket on The Platform