Businesses feel the prioritisation for the Government's order of rapid antigen tests has tripped up their pandemic planning, says the Food and Grocery Council.
The council said members were profoundly disappointed the Government jumped to the front of the queue and was getting rapid antigen tests (RATS) that would otherwise have gone to them.
The Government has 14 million RATS arriving in a month but private businesses who also pre-ordered RATS now face delays in getting their own tests.
The council's chief executive, Katherine Rich, said its members have expressed disappointment and sadness over the Government's decision to ask the suppliers for priority over other orders.
She said companies were doing the right thing and putting together pandemic plans, which included ordering RATS.
"Those orders had been accepted, and in some cases they've actually paid for goods, only to find that their orders have been cancelled because the Government had bumped their order."
Rich said companies had explained to staff how they were going to use the tests to cope with the pandemic, but now those plans were in tatters.
"It is unfair because what the Ministry of Health has done has cut right across the pandemic plans for essential businesses who are trying to keep the food supply going."
Rich said companies could wait weeks more for their orders to arrive, and in the meantime the Government needed to provide clarity for businesses that were considered essential and would have access to its tests.
"There were no specific time frames given for when firms can order their RATS, how they're going to be dispatched, who's going to get them, and within what timeline."
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said he did not use any legal powers when asking the suppliers for the Government's order of tests to be prioritised.
"I didn't exercise any specific legal power, I just was in discussion with one of the companies and then my team followed up with the others and just created an expectation with them that they would fulfil the Government's orders. And again, this is an order that is for the entire country, including our private businesses."
Act Party leader David Seymour said the Government should not have taken tests that would otherwise have gone to the private sector.
He said the situation was similar to the start of the pandemic, when personal protective equipment was in short supply and medical staff were forced to work without adequate PPE.
"The Government does not have its own supplies, and it's now discouraging anyone else from bringing them in. We'll remember in the early stages of the pandemic we were saved by private businesses going all out to bring planeloads of PPE from China."
Seymour said the Government should not be the distributor of supplies.
Bloomfield said the ministry would engage with businesses whose rapid antigen testing orders were delayed as a result of the incident.
Deputy Prime Minister Robertson told First Up there was a global shortage of the tests due to Omicron infections around the world, and the Government's job was to help co-ordinate distribution to ensure critical supply chains kept going.
"It's important that we use what we can in New Zealand to make sure that they're distributed to the places they're needed and that includes a number of private sector businesses."
Robertson said the tests would probably be distributed through pharmacies, GPs and the Ministry of Health.