Orders by food and grocery companies of many thousands of Rapid Antigen Test kits have been intercepted by the Government to bolster its low stocks, says FGC.

In most cases, companies had been invoiced and paid a deposit, only for orders to be cancelled. One company had an order of more than 20,000 kits cancelled.

Chief Executive Katherine Rich says multiple businesses had told her orders had been cancelled by suppliers and manufacturers, who said the Government was taking all available supply.

“They’re telling our members: ‘We can’t supply you, the Government has taken it all’.

“This takeover is halting pandemic plans by companies that are key to keeping food on supermarket shelves.

“Many companies were planning to use the tests to routinely monitor staff – while still sending anyone with symptoms to get a more accurate lab-based test.

“Rapid Antigen Tests have been a really important tool used by food companies around the globe, to not just keep critical workers making food, but to assure staff that everything is being done to protect them.

“These kits are part of companies’ sophisticated pandemic plans.

“They’re frustrated they’ve done the right thing by planning ahead and ordering early, only for the Government to take their stocks at the last minute because it wasn’t prepared.

“It makes sense for the Government to have a big supply of rapid antigen tests to give out free for people, but that shouldn’t get in the way of essential businesses trying to keep staff safe.

“The idea that RATs are readily accessible is wrong – companies’ orders have been in the country, but they’re not able to be dispatched because they’ve been taken by the Ministry of Health.

“So much for asking everyone to be prepared.

“If Ministers are being told there are plenty of tests in stock, then they’re getting bad advice. If there were plenty in stock this wouldn’t be happening.

“Businesses are now having to explain to the staff who have been promised the tests they will be unlikely to be able to get them at all.

“Because of the lack of tests there’s a real danger we will be faced with Australian-style supply chain disruptions.

“The companies include some of New Zealand’s biggest food and grocery suppliers, both New Zealand-owned and multinationals.

“In the case of the multinationals, they’re trying to comply with testing protocols that have been set by their head office, but because the kits aren’t available, they can’t do that.

“We are still so disappointed that there have been no changes to stand-down times for close contacts.

“There are only so many production shifts a company can send home before they have to close the whole facility, and that could leave the grocery supply chain scrambling to meet demand.”