Word of the day

August 7, 2013

Pulveratricious – dust-coloured; covered in dust; nesting on the ground.


Rural round-up

August 7, 2013

Fonterra problem highlights danger of being a one-trick pony – Allan Barber:

It’s a change for the dairy industry to capture the negative agricultural headlines instead of the meat or kiwifruit sectors. Unfortunately for everybody in New Zealand the dairy industry has become such a critical and large part of our economy that the whey protein botulism scare has already caused, and will continue to cause, major concerns for our global dairy trade.

Only last week Fonterra was again the star of the economy with a $3 billion boost to farmers’ earnings because of a 50c lift in the payout. Yet this week the company’s very scale has been called into question. People are now asking whether Fonterra can survive its third health scare in five years.

Even if this is unnecessary scaremongering, another question which would have been unthinkable a week ago is being asked. Is Fonterra too big for the country or, to quote the Waikato Times, its gumboots? This ought to make those calling for one mega meat company hesitate for a moment, before they find that they are asking for something which may contain the seeds of its own destruction. . .

Winegrowers fear China backlash – Penny Wardle:

Marlborough winegrowers fear the discovery of a botulism risk in Fonterra milk products could taint the reputation of New Zealand wine and food in China.

China has suspended imports of products that contain Fonterra’s whey protein concentrate and a product known as base infant powder formula.

Allan Scott of Allan Scott Family Winemakers said everyone in the industry was nervous about market reaction to the contamination debacle which has dominated news headlines since Saturday. . . .

Scientist collars innovation prize – Jill Galloway:

A senior AgResearch scientist has been highly commended for his cow collar, winning $1000 at the Innovate Manawatu contest last week.

Keith Betteridge said he would form a start-up company, FarmSense, to produce the cow collar.

It measures pasture continuously during grazing, with results being sent to a central data handling centre.

“Only 20 to 25 per cent of farmers regularly measure pasture mass over their farms. The rest do it by eye, but according to dairy consultants that can be pretty inaccurate.” . . .

Election date now certain but policies unclear for farmers

With the election confirmed for September 7, the nation’s peak agriculture advocacy body, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is looking to politicians to provide clarity on their policies, and commit to action for the agriculture sector.

NFF President Duncan Fraser said Australian agriculture needs to be a priority for all sides of Parliament this coming election. The NFF will be looking for agriculture to be elevated in the policy debate between major parties.

“Now that we have certainty in terms of the election date, we’re looking equal certainty in policy issues, so farmers can get on with their job. We encourage all political parties to consider how they can best serve a strong, vibrant agriculture sector that ensures that Australians continue to have access to a sustainable supply of Australian grown food and fibre,” Mr Fraser said. . .

£160m agri-atech strategy ‘verging on insulting’

The Agricultural Engineers Association has branded the government’s £160m investment strategy for developing agricultural technology “very disappointing”.

Roger Lane-Nott, the director general of both the AEA and Milking Equipment Association, made the comments after the agri-tech strategy to invest more money in science and technology was launched two weeks ago.

“The fact that farm equipment was given a couple of small paragraphs was verging on insulting to an industry that has a turnover of nearly £4bn in the UK and is a fundamental part of agricultural production,” said Mr Lane-Nott. . .

Collier heads NZIPM:

EAST COAST AgFirst consultant Hilton Collier is the new president of the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management, replacing Wayne Allan who’s completed the standard two-year term in the role.

“Wayne has been a driving force in developing NZIPIM’s new strategic plan and instrumental in its implementation,” says Collier, who says there’s an increasing need for NZIPIM and its members to play a leadership role within the primary industry, within and beyond the farm gate.

“This includes positioning our farmers and growers to capture global market opportunities and ensure we have a highly profitable primary sector to levels New Zealand formerly enjoyed as one of the best standards of living in the OECD.” . . .

My first attempt at homemade sausages – Cabbage Tree Farm:

After much procrastination I finally got around to making sausages. A few months ago we bought a meat grinder with a sausage making attachment and I had a bit of a hiccup with getting the correct type of skins – I bought edible collagen casings which did not fit on the end of the sausage maker….oops! Finally I tracked down a butcher that could supply the natural ‘hog’ casings (pig intestines) and we had some pork scraps that our butcher bagged up specifically for us to make sausages, from when he butchered our last lot of home raised pigs.

I did a quick search on You Tube to make sure I knew what to do, and to get some recipes. In the end I chose to make up some chorizo sausages after watching this helpful tutorial. . .


If . . .

August 7, 2013

If you had to communicate a bad news story, how would you do it?


When the ex comes back

August 7, 2013

In even the best relationships it can be a bit difficult when the ex comes for a visit.

It’s hard for the new partner not to feel second-best and that the ex is more articulate, more respected, more popular.

Labour leader David Shearer would be forgiven for feeling a bit like this when Helen Clark, the woman he succeeded, returns to New Zealand and is fêted by the media.

This week he has even more reason to feel that way because in the interview on Q & A she undermined the opposition to the GCSB Bill.

. . . Helen Clark told Corin Dann that there is a need for a GCSB and she’s urging dialogue across the political divide.

“The answer is yes, you do, because you need that foreign intelligence, and not least for safety and security reasons. I think the real issue is, is there a gap in the law, which the Kitteridge Inquiry apparently found that there was, and if so, how do you deal with that and do you take the opportunity at the same time to write in more controls to protect the privacy of the individual? That, as I see it, is the debate raging at the moment.”

Ms Clark says when her government brought in the 2003 GCSB legislation ”that actually took GCSB out of the shadows and made it a government department with its own Act, which was good. But, you know, in retrospect, as Miss Kitteridge has found, perhaps there was a gap in the law. So that has to be dealt with, but I think it’s really important to try to reach across the political divide when you’re dealing with these issues.”

Ms Clark says, “Try and take the politics out of it and look at what do we as Kiwis need to protect our interests and how do we protect the privacy of individual Kiwis who should never be caught up in a giant trawling exercise across their communications.”

Shearer and Labour had the opportunity to be the grown-ups in opposition by acting like a government in waiting on this issue.

Instead they’ve just been playing political catch-up to the Green Party and Winston Peters who know they’ll never have to lead a government.

They’ve missed their opportunity to get better legislation and because of that have been wasting their time and our money filibustering on the Bill which will eventually pass anyway.


Grass plus

August 7, 2013

The whey contamination scare has once again put the focus on New Zealand’s reliance on agriculture.

Shaun Hendy co-authored a soon to be released book with the late Sir Paul Callaghan entitled Get Off the Grass.

. . . In Get Off the Grass, Sir Paul and I investigate why New Zealanders work harder and earn less than most other people in the developed world.  In Sir Paul’s previous book, Wool to Weta, this was framed as a choice:  we choose to be poor because of the types of industries that we prioritise, such as farming and tourism, earn us relatively little per hour worked. In Get Off the Grass, we use ideas from economic geography and the study of complex systems to investigate why it has been so hard to innovate our way out of these low productivity industries. . .

With a title like Get Off the Grass, it won’t surprise you that we argue that New Zealand can and should look to do an awful lot more than just agriculture.  Some of the points we make in the book are:

  • There is a deep flaw in our reliance on the 100% Pure brand.  We need the edge our clean, green brand gives us to sell our agricultural commodities at good prices, yet the production of these commodities actually damages the environment.  See this piece I wrote for Unlimited magazine last year.
  • Economic diversity is crucial for long-term economic stability, and this in turn is crucial for growth.  The fluctuations in our dollar caused by the contamination of one of our major exports illustrates why.  The volatility caused by such crises in turn hurts other export sectors, making it even harder to get off the grass.
  • Diversity is regarded as a crucial ingredient for innovation, so our strong focus on agricultural research actually makes us less innovative as a nation, whether in agriculture or otherwise. Physics and chemistry have contributed an awful lot to agriculture, but agricultural science has not returned the favour.
  • Specialisation in a single industry is just not a good long term strategy.  No industry stays on top forever, and if your favoured industry becomes too important to fail, it will prevent you moving into other industries before it’s too late. . .

I don’t agree with all those points.

We are very innovative in agriculture and that has led to other successful innovations which earn export income, electric fences for example.

Thanks to our climate and soils we are very good at growing grass and turning it into protein.

We shouldn’t turn our backs on that natural advantage.

While the world wants our food we have a very good reason to keep on the grass – but that shouldn’t be stopping us diversifying into other exports.

There’s no need to get off the grass but we should be looking at how we can do grass plus develop other export industries.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can and should be both.


Small fall in dairy price

August 7, 2013

The contaminated whey scare did not had the disastrous impact on last night’s GlobalDairyTrade auction that many had feared.

The trade weighted price dropped only 2.4% which isn’t a big change in comparison to others this year.

GDT Trade Weighted Index Changes

gdt7813

Rennet casein was the only product to increase in price (1.2%)  but whole milk powder, on which the payout is largely based, was down only 1.6% .

The price of anhydrous milk fat dropped 4.9%; butter dropped 5.5%; butter milk was down 0.4%; cheddar was down 4.4%; and skim milk powder fell 3%.

Prices are still well above the long-term average and the relatively small fall in the trade weighted index indicates that customers still trust Fonterra’s products.


What a difference a week makes

August 7, 2013

Just a week ago Fonterra announced an increase in the milk payout and was being praised for the positive impact that would have on its suppliers and the wider economy.

Seven days later there’s no certainty about the payout and we’re watching anxiously to see what impact the contaminated whey scare will have on this morning’s GlobalDairyTrade auction.

The problem is not just the food-safety scare but the way the company is handling it.

When something with the potential to be as serious as contamination of infant formula and other food is the issue, it is difficult to give too much information and to be too clear about what’s happened, what’s being done about it and what else people need to know.

Last night four days after the first announcement –  the news showed anxious parents unsure which formula was safe and which wasn’t.

In failing to give full and clear information Fonterra has damaged its reputation and worse, still, it’s damaged the country’s reputation for safe food.

The damage can be rectified and it would be repaired much sooner if the company would give all the information it has and clear explanations of the reasons for any gaps in that information.


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