Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has defended his decision to stay with a trade delegation in South America rather than returning home to contend with the drought in several farming regions in New Zealand, even as he indicated that official droughts could be called in more regions.
Mr Guy is with the Prime Minister and a trade delegation in South America, as is the chief executive of the Ministry of Primary Industries Wayne McNee.
Mr Guy has previously said the drought could cost $1 billion to the economy.
However, he said there was little he could do in New Zealand and the visit to South America was an important one for primary industry businesses looking to expand their investments.
Droughts have so far been declared in Northland, South Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay.
"I can't make it rain. This is a very important trip and we're opening doors to getting our products into these markets. What I can tell farmers in New Zealand is that I am getting a regular update. The areas I have declared a medium drought event support is flowing.
"I realise there are some in hardship."
He was getting regular updates on the situation, which he described as "pretty tough" including in areas where official droughts had not yet been declared, such as the Wairarapa, Manawatu and Rangitikei, as well as the top of the South Island.
He was seeking advice on whether droughts should be declared in those areas, including getting data from NIWA on soil moisture deficit levels.
"So it could be later this week that we may need to declare more areas as a medium scale drought adverse event."
Farmers in such areas get assistance from the Government during the drought.
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