Word of the day


Cobber – friend, mate.

Why use wheat for ethanol when there’s a food shortage?


Phil Clarke reports that hundreds of farmers in Britain are signing up to supply wheat to a new bio ethanol plant.

Presumably they are responding to market signals and getting a better price for their crop than they would if they were selling it for milling or stock feed.

However, given the shortage of wheat internationally it’s difficult to understand how that can be.

The drought in Russia last northern summer, China, the United States and drought and floods in Australia will all put pressure on supply which ought to result in better prices.

Something must be out of kilter if farmers get more for selling crops for fuel when there’s a growing shortage of food. 

Could it be a Green plot to reduce world population by starving people to death by eco-extremists who have talked about population control as a planet-saving measure?

Price of milk not the problem


Milk’s more expensive than petrol.

Given we export most of the former and import most of the latter that ought to be cause for celebration but not everyone sees it that way:

Manaia Health PHO Chief Executive Chris Farrelly has slammed the high cost of milk saying it is a national outrage that a country that produces 15 billion litres annually cannot supply cheap milk to the domestic market . .

The price of milk in a Whangarei supermarket for a two litre bottle of milk was up to $4.79 and the cheapest was $3.65. Families in Australia are paying A$2. Recently the price of milk in Australia was slashed by 33%, while the price of milk continues to rise. . .

Australia doesn’t export as high a proportion of its milk as we do and the price is low because of strong competition between supermarkets.

“Low income families simply cannot afford to drink milk,” says Mr Farrelly. “It’s no wonder we are seeing increasing childhood obesity and diabetes if families are swapping milk for fizzy.

“The argument that milk sold in New Zealand must match international prices is a nonsense particularly when only 5% of our milk production is for the domestic market. We should note the wisdom of the large middle east oil producing states which ensure cheap petrol for their own people” Mr Farrelly says.

The argument domestic prices must match international ones isn’t nonsense. Farmers go for the best price and if the export price was better than the domestic one then they’d give up town supply.

One way to bring the domestic price down is subsidies which would be very expensive and not necessarily help the people who need it most.

The other is to restrict exports which would sabotage the economic recovery and might not make any difference to domestic prices. When Argentina did that farmers swapped from dairying to soya which was more profitable, supply dropped and the country had to start importing milk which was more expensive. 

The problem isn’t that the price is too high, it’s either that incomes are too low or people don’t budget well.

Increasing incomes requires sustainable growth in the tradable sector. That won’t be achieved by subsidies but is helped by better prices for milk and there was more good news on that front in this morning’s globalDairyTrade auction.

The trade weighted index went up 3.9%.

The recipe for anhydrous milk fat dropped 2.4%; skim milk powder went up .7%; and the whole milk powder price  increased 7.9%.

Growing in all the wrong places


Growing in  the all the wrong places isn’t difficult – that’s what happened from 2003 to 2009:

Finance Minister Bill English explains:

. . . non-tradable jobs grew strongly from 2003 to 2009 – up about 300,000 – as New Zealanders borrowed against the rising value of their homes to go on an unprecedented retail spendup. Many of these jobs turned out to be as unsustainable as the borrowing that fuelled them.

By contrast, during this period the tradables sector – the part of our economy that earns our living with the rest of the world – actually went into recession and shed about 55,000 jobs as it was smothered by poor government policy settings, rising interest rates and a rising dollar.

Economic recovery depends on more jobs from export industries.

I’m pleased to see that in the last five quarters, jobs in the tradables sector have increased by 25,000 – or about 6 per cent. That growth needs to pick up pace, but it is an encouraging start.

February 16 in history


On February 16:

1032 Emperor Yingzong of China, was born  (d. 1067).


1646  Battle of Great Torrington, Devon – the last major battle of the first English Civil War.

Burton, William Shakespeare- The Wounded Cavalier.jpg An allegory of the English Civil War by William Shakespeare Burton. It depicts a Cavalier lying on the ground wounded, while a Puritan in black stands in the background.

1770 Captain James Cook sighted what he called Banks Island but later discovered was a peninsula.

James Cook sights Banks 'Island'

 1804  First Barbary War: Stephen Decatur led a raid to burn the pirate-held frigate USS Philadelphia (1799).

Burning of the uss philadelphia.jpg

1838 Weenen Massacre: Hundreds of Voortrekkers along the Blaukraans River, Natal were killed by Zulus.

1852 Studebaker Brothers wagon company, precursor of the automobile manufacturer, is established.

 The Studebaker brothers

1859 The French Government passed a law to set the A-note above middle C to a frequency of 435 Hz, in an attempt to standardize the pitch.

1899 President Félix Faure of France died in office.

1899 – Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur Iceland‘s first football club was founded.

KR Reykjavík.png

1918 The Council of Lithuania unanimously adopted the Act of Independence, declaring Lithuania an independent state.

1923 – Howard Carter unsealed the burial chamber of Pharoh Tutankhamun.

1926 Margot Frank, German-born Dutch Jewish holocaust victim, was born (d. 1945).

1934 – Austrian Civil War ended with the defeat of the Social Democrats and the Republican Schutzbund.

1934 – Commission of Government was sworn in as form of direct rule for the Dominion of Newfoundland.

1936 – Elections brought the Popular Front to power in Spain.

1937Wallace H. Carothers received a patent for nylon.

Nylon 6,6 unit

1940 Altmark Incident: The German tanker Altmark was boarded by sailors from the British destroyer HMS Cossack. 299 British prisoners were freed.

Altmark Incident.jpg

1941  –Kim Jong-il, North Korean leader, was born.

1947 – Canadians were granted Canadian citizenship after 80 years of being British subjects. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King became the first Canadian citizen.

1954 – Iain Banks, Scottish author, was born.

1956 Vincent Ward, New Zealand director and screenwriter, was born.

1957 The “Toddlers’ Truce“, a controversial television close down between 6.00pm and 7.00pm was abolished in the United Kingdom.

1959 John McEnroe, American tennis player, was born.

John McEnroe by David Shankbone.jpg

1959 Fidel Castro becomes Premier of Cuba after dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown on January 1.

1960 Pete Willis, English guitarist (Def Leppard), was born.

1961 Andy Taylor, English musician (Duran Duran, The Power Station), was born.


1961 – Explorer program: Explorer 9 (S-56a) was launched.

1968 – In Haleyville, Alabama, the first 9-1-1 emergency telephone system went into service.

1973  Cathy Freeman, Australian athlete, was born.

1978 – The first computer bulletin board system was created (CBBS in Chicago, Illinois).

 Ward Christensen and the computer that ran the first public Bulletin Board System, CBBS

1983 – The Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria and South Australia claimed the lives of 75 people.

Ash Wednesday bushfires

1985 – The founding of Hezbollah.

Hezbollah emblem

1986 – The Soviet liner Mikhail Lermontov ran aground in the Marlborough Sounds.

Mikhail lermontov 1972.jpg

1987 – The trial of John Demjanjuk, accused of being a Nazi guard dubbed “Ivan the Terrible” in Treblinka extermination camp, started in Jerusalem.

1991 – Nicaraguan Contras leader Enrique Bermúdez was assassinated in Managua.

1999 – Across Europe Kurdish rebels took over embassies and hold hostages after Turkey arrested one of their rebel leaders, Abdullah Öcalan.


2005 – The Kyoto Protocol came into force, following its ratification by Russia.

 Participation in the Kyoto Protocol, as of June 2009, where green indicates the countries that have signed and ratified the treaty, grey is not yet decided and red is no intention to ratify.

2005 – The National Hockey League cancelled the entire 2004-2005 regular season and playoffs, becoming the first major sports league in North America to do so over a labour dispute.

05 NHL Shield.svg

2006 – The last Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) was decommissioned by the United States Army.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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