Strong international demand for New Zealand's food, despite the global effects of Covid-19, could help provide a springboard to get more Kiwis into primary sector jobs, says Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

"Our apples and kiwifruit continue to be star performers, with $890 million of fruit exported between February 1 and April 22," O'Connor said.

Latest provisional stade statistics also show the dairy and meat sectors shipped $6.18 billion of product overseas over the same period, said O'Connor.

"Overall primary sector export revenue remains higher into April than for the same period in 2018, despite the forestry sector essentially being shut down over the past month."

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With the country now in Alert Level 3, industries affected by the lockdown such as forestry and wool were back ino action and that will help, said O'Connor.

"The strength of New Zealand's primary sector coupled with the success of our health response to Covid-19 gives us a headstart on the world as we get our economy moving again.

"Our primary sector contributes over $46b a year in exports to our economy and provides jobs for hundreds of thousands of people in our rural communities. These latest stats show the sector is in a strong position to help us reboot our economy.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. Photo / Supplied
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. Photo / Supplied

O'Connor said the world wanted New Zealand's high quality product and there was no shortage of demand.

"We now need a skilled workforce to help us seize the opportunities."

The primary sector will need about 50,000 more people in a post-Covid-19 world, said O'Connor.

"There are jobs going all over the country ranging from hands-on work in orchards, on farms, in forests and fishing boats, to professional roles in engineering, science and management.

"The Government is working alongside the primary sector to help ensure workers get to the places they are needed. We're investigating further ways we can boost the primary sector workforce through the Government's $100m redeployment scheme.

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"I've been impressed by the way the primary sector, government agencies and others have come together to support each other, further reinforcing that our team of 5 million is just as important now as during the lockdown."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website
Based on the provisional data, between February 1 and April 22, New Zealand exported:

• Primary products worth $8.17b compared with $8.69b for the same period last year, and $7.40b in 2018.

• Dairy products worth $3.95b.

• Forestry products worth $0.73b.

• Fruit worth $0.89b.

• Meat worth $2.24b.

• Seafood worth $0.37b.

• During February and March, New Zealand's overall export revenue across the primary sectors (meat, dairy, seafood, fruit and forestry) closely matched exports for the same period a year ago.

• Primary sector export earnings slowed in the first week of April, but have recovered in the second and third.

• Fruit exporters continued their strong start to the season with export revenue from March 1 up 22 per cent on last year, mainly because of increased gold kiwifruit production early in the export season and a strong harvest so far.

• Since 1 March 2020, exports of meat, dairy, seafood, and forestry products have fallen 12 per cent compared to the same time a year ago, mainly due to a fall in forestry and seafood exports to China.

• Exports of seafood slowed throughout April, and are down 36 percent to China since 1 March 2020, the main reason for the 15 per cent fall in seafood export revenue to all countries over this period.

• Overall primary sector export revenue remains higher than for the same period in 2018.