Connings Food Market in Appleby shut their doors yesterday afternoon after they were deemed a non-essential business. Photo: Henry Jaine Photography

Confusion mounts over what local food stores can stay open during lockdown

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An online petition to keep an Appleby fruit and vegetable store open is gaining traction as confusion sets in as to what greengrocers can open their doors during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Connings Food Market in Appleby shut their doors yesterday afternoon after they were deemed a non-essential business.

A statement on their Facebook page read: “We hope this is temporary and are currently querying the decision because we really think we provide an essential service for our community.”

A petition on change.org has already attracted more than 700 signatures since last night.

The outcry comes after some greengrocers in Nelson have had to shut their doors, while others are allowed to stay open after conflicting advice from the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

As of today, Connings and The Veggie Guy in Stoke have been told to close, while Mean Greens Fruit and Vegetable Shop on St Vincent Street, as well as Benge and Co, have been told they can keep operating.

Owner of The Veggie Guy, Karl Hadfield, says there is a real “mixed bag” of information out there.

“Last Monday we were told by MBIE that we were an essential service, but then on Wednesday we were told otherwise, and we closed at lockdown.”

Karl has queried the decision with no luck.

“From my point of view its really frustrating. It’s not about the money, I’d just like to see some consistency.

“At the moment, I have a fridge with $5,000 worth of vegetables and I’m not even allowed to go into the shop.”

Last night Mean Greens announced they would continue to operate after being told they were considered as an essential service by MPI.

A spokesperson says they will be audited frequently and are operating on reduced hours, with only one or two customers allowed in the store at the same time.

They are only accepting cards as payment method, ramping up cleaning and enforcing a two-metre rule behind the counter.

They are also taking email and text orders for produce, for pick-up the next day.

“We also sell Indian grocery items and for many, we are the only place to get a certain type of rice. We sold 60 bags of 10kg rice in three days and have more in transit,” they said.

They are also offering health care workers a five per cent discount.

“We will be keeping prices as low as possible. We know many families are struggling.”

Benge and Co Green Grocers are also currently open. An update on their Facebook page states were told they could trade on Wednesday after initially being told they had to close.

The owners did not want to comment to Nelson App.

In the Prime Minister’s press conference this afternoon, she was asked if any more thought had been made to letting stores such as greengrocers open.

Jacinda Ardern’s response was a simple “no”.

“Because unfortunately that would undermine what we are trying to do, which is to limit the public’s contact with workers and with each other.”

She reiterated the fact that supermarkets will have everything people will need.

“For every greengrocer … that’s a workforce that’s at risk and we need to minimise that as much as possible.”

Nelson App is still awaiting comment from MBIE.