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Miller Harry Lowe outside NZ BioGrains located in the former Midland Co-operative Dairy Company Ltd building in Ashburton. Photo Toni Williams

Flour shortages around the country have seen the dedicated crew at NZ BioGrains, in Ashburton, working flat out to help ease limited supply.

And the appreciation of customers has been the best tonic to keep going.

NZ BioGrains manager Harry Lowe has driven from Queenstown to Nelson delivering flour during lockdown and said as bakers nationwide shut down, more people seemed to have taken up their own baking.

“It was extremely busy,” he said, estimating the eight staff working at the mill were at least two to three times busier than usual over the four-week period when the country was in Alert Level 4.

NZ BioGrains supplies organic and biological flour and stock food products, as well as organically-grown grains, pulses and nuts throughout the country.

Four of their organically certified suppliers are from arable farmers in Mid Canterbury.

The company also does its own deliveries from one end of the South Island to the other in a trusty Isuzu, which has done over 500,000km.

The Isuzu, the latest in the fleet, will be used until it retires; just like those preceding it.

It can carry up to five tonne of product.

“We were quite lucky, we’ve been doing our own deliveries around the South Island for 30 years,” he said.

Mr Lowe and his wife Mary own the business, which has operated from a Dobson Street site for the past 33 years.

He said  most stock food deliveries were already dropped, contactless, at designated sheds on farms.

And that contactless delivery had continued to front doors with household product sales, including flour, that had noticeably changed from small orders of 1.5kg to much larger quantities of 25kg.

Most people were pretty relaxed, he said, once they knew who hewas and why he was at their property.

“Some people are so grateful to get their delivery, that’s where you get your energy from.”

He said an influx of hundreds of orders in the lead-up to lockdown sparked a brief shutdown on ordering until it “fell into place”.

In normal times, the business had a steady market pattern with customers ordering monthly or weekly, however there was no normal right now due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“We’re taking it for what it is, we don’t have a choice,” he said.

As busy as it has been, he was grateful for a couple of days respite over Anzac weekend, before heading back into work for the next leg, although at the reduced Alert Level 3.

He said the large size of the mill worked in favour of social distancing rules at work and allowed staff to keep to their own areas.

And customers picking up product can now do so at the front door.

– by Toni Williams