Word of the day

August 13, 2013

Puissance  – great power, influence, or prowess; strength.


Rural round-up

August 13, 2013

Engaging youth in agriculture – the key to a secure food future – Farming First:

Engaging youth in agriculture has been a prominent topic recently and has risen up the development agenda, as there is growing concern worldwide that young people have become disenchanted with agriculture.

With most young people – around 85%living in developing countries, where agriculture is likely to provide the main source of income it is vital that young people are connected with farming.

Currently around the world we’re living in an era where rapid urbanisation has led to a decline in rural populations and for the first time ever the majority of the world’s population lives in a city. The UN World Health Organization predicts that “by 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people” meaning that more young people than ever before are moving to cities and towns to find work, leaving few behind to work in rural areas. . .

Fonterra’s Group Director of Strategy to lead Recovery Management Team:

 Fonterra today announced that Maury Leyland, Group Director of Strategy, will lead its Recovery Management Team responsible for the ongoing operations of the precautionary recall and will oversee the operational review announced by the CEO last week.

Chief Executive, Theo Spierings, said, “Maury will manage all aspects of the recent recall and will oversee the operational review I announced last week. She will report directly to me on progress and findings. This will be an in-depth review covering our business processes, information and traceability systems, and current ways of working, including decision-making processes”, Mr Spierings said.

Ms Leyland said the operational review is separate to the one being conducted by the Board of Directors of Fonterra, but that the findings will be shared directly with them.

“Our initial investigations have given us a clear idea of the events that led to our precautionary recall, but we now need to establish a detailed understanding of the processes, systems and decisions involved. . .

 

China’s Bright Dairy looking better after Fonterra’s food safety stumble, Moody’s says – Paul McBeth:

China’s Bright Food Group, a cornerstone stake in local processor Synlait Milk, is likely to get a boost from Fonterra Cooperative Group’s food scare and might get a credit rating upgrade from Moody’s Investors Service.

Fonterra is the biggest milk powder supplier into China with about 60 percent market share, and last week’s food safety scare is seen as credit positive for Bright Food’s Baa3 credit rating with a stable outlook, Moody’s said in a statement. The New Zealand dairy exporter discovered bacteria that can cause botulism, which sparked a recall of potentially tainted food and prompted Chinese authorities to suspend imports of affected products.

“The incident is credit positive of Bright Food, which operates its dairy business through Bright Dairy & Food Co, a 65 percent Shanghai listed company and is one of China’s top three dairy producers by revenue,” Moody’s senior analyst Alan Gao said. . .

PGG Wrightson take $321M charge on goodwill, operating earnings drop on drought:

PGG Wrightson, the rural services company controlled by China’s Agria Corp, took a $321 million charge to write off goodwill from its 2005 merger while posting a decline in operating earnings in line with guidance on the effects of this year’s drought.
The net loss was $306.5 million in the 12 months ended June 30, from a profit of $24.5 million a year earlier, the Christchurch-based company said in a statement. Sales fell 15 percent to $1.13 billion. Stripping out the impairment, net profit would have been $14.6 million, missing First NZ Capital expectations for net earnings of $19.4 million. . .

‘Broccoli lady’ honoured for kumara work – Tennessee Mansford:

A Kiwi woman’s just been named Australasia’s marketer of the year for her work to promote the humble kumara.

And it’s not the first time American-born Lisa Cork has made headlines with her vegetable antics. Twenty years ago she sent 10 tonnes of broccoli to US President George Bush.

It was labelled broccoli-gate or the broccoli brouhaha, and it all stemmed from one statement by then US President George Bush, Sr in 1990. . . .

Giesen The Brothers Pinot Noir 2011 wins top trophy:

Growing recognition of the calibre of Marlborough Pinot Noir has been highlighted with Giesen The Brothers Pinot Noir 2011 winning top accolades at the 2013 Spiegelau International Wine awards dinner in Auckland on the weekend.

Produced from the sought after Wairau Valley in Marlborough, The Brothers Pinot Noir 2011 won gold and then went on to win the overall trophy for Singapore Airlines Champion Pinot Noir.

Marcel Giesen said Giesen Wines is now focusing considerable attention on Pinot Noir, having planted their first 100% organic Pinot Noir vineyard only three years ago. . .


Political compass

August 13, 2013

Kiwi in Canberra pointed me to the ABC’s political compass.

You don’t have to be Australian, or in Australia, to do it.

My results were:

vote compass

Liberal Party 71%; Labour Party 50% and Green Party 28%.

I didn’t know enough about some of the issues to give a really accurate answer but somewhere in the light grey area is probably where I feel most comfortable.

A lot of issues aren’t black and white, and nor are political views.

I’m more liberal on some things, less on others and further right on some, less on others.

What particularly caught my eye about this was that


Fonterra inquiry needs teeth

August 13, 2013

The government is dusting off a bill that has been languishing on Parliament’s order paper for four years in order to give the inquiry into the debacle over Fonterra’s whey protein concentrate more teeth:

It will rush the Inquiries Bill through its remaining stages within the next three weeks and is considering using urgency to pass it.

The problem ministers face is that current law gives them two options – a commission of inquiry which would take at least a year and a ministerial inquiry which doesn’t have the power to subpoena witnesses and obtain documents.

The bill allows a third type of inquiry to be held, called a Government inquiry, which is effectively a ministerial inquiry with teeth. . .

A toothless inquiry would do more harm than good.

The inquiry also needs to be both fast and thorough.

Prime Minister John Key wants an inquiry that can quickly find out why Fonterra’s whey protein was contaminated and how the company handled the crisis.

He clearly believes it should have the power to compel witnesses to appear and to seize documents if that’s needed. . .

Fonterra is doing its own investigation and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has begun a compliance investigation into the debacle.

“I have said a number of times since MPI was first notified on Friday August 2 of this issue, that we have a number of questions about it, including when relevant parties were informed, and when they should have been informed,” MPI acting Director-General Scott Gallacher said.

“This compliance investigation will determine whether regulatory requirements under the Food Act and the Animal Products Act were met by all parties involved, or whether any parties may have committed any breaches or offences.

“The investigation will include decisions made by all parties and their response, including during production of the whey protein concentrate, and from when anomalies in testing initially arose. It will be led by MPI’s Director of Compliance, and will involve upwards of 20 people,” Mr Gallacher said.

“MPI will continue to provide operational updates on other matters relating to the potential contamination of whey protein concentrate, but it cannot comment any further on the compliance investigation until it is completed. It is likely to take three to six months,” Mr Gallacher said.

Maximum penalties for breaching regulations under the Food and Animal Products Acts range from $100,000 to $500,000, and/or up to 12 months imprisonment, depending on the nature of the offence.

MPI will also undertake a formal debrief process on its own response to the incident, to identify any lessons learned.

This isn’t just Fonterra’s problem.

It has impacted on other exporters and threatens to tarnish the country’s reputation for high quality, safe food.

We need to find out what happened and how it happened.

We also need to find out what needs to change to prevent it happening again and how any future food safety issues can be handled much better.


First with four

August 13, 2013

Valerie Adams has won her fourth world shotput title, becoming the first woman to win four individual world athletics titles in the same event.

Adams, 28, charged to the lead with 20.41m at her first attempt in the shot put final at the world championships in Moscow on Monday night and was never headed.

Her best throw of the night was 20.88m in the third round. . .

Adams’ commanding victory on Monday made her the first female track and field athlete to win four individual world titles – and to make it even more impressive, she achieved the feat at four successive championships. . .

What strength, fitness, skill, determination and perseverance it must take to accomplish this.

It’s the party vote that counts

August 13, 2013

Anyone who was involved in the National Party during Judy Kirk’s time as president knows it’s the party vote that counts.

She never lost an opportunity to remind members of that.

That was one of the reasons the party reorganised and began running centralised campaigns. These made it clear to voters that while the party wanted them to tick National twice,  if they were going to give us only one tick it should be the party vote one.

The party didn’t abandon electorates though, with the exception of Epsom and Ohariu where, for strategic reasons, National supporters got the message to split their votes.

The wee parties don’t usually try to win electorate seats.

They don’t even field candidates in most of them and where they do they make it quite clear it’s just the party vote they’re chasing.

Labour has rarely done as well in the provinces, and now it looks like the party won’t even try to regain the seats it’s lost.

In the Listener cover story regaining the love Labour’s lost, Ruth Laugesen writes:

Labour is firmly focused on boosting its party vote, possibly at the expense of the electoral seats.

To win back the Beehive, Labour must win hundreds of square kilometres of territory in the heartland. But as Labour rebuilds its party organisation towards the next election, winning electorates appears to be taking a back seat. . .

Is there anything Labour is doing specifically aimed at winning back electorate seats? There is a long pause. “Winning back seats. It’s always good to have … The electorate seats are important, so there will be seats that we are actually going to be ensuring that there’s a strong two-tick campaign, but it’s a party-vote and a candidate-vote campaign. We may have had some people focusing more on the seat than we would like in the future.”

This is another sign of Labour’s weakened state – too little money, too few members and probably too few credible candidates to fight a true two-tick nationwide campaign.

It is the party vote that counts in forming governments.

But abandoning the provinces means that when the party eventually returns to power, as sadly sooner or later it will, it will have little connection to, or knowledge of, great swathes of the country.

Under a Labour-led government the party vote will count and people outside the cities won’t.

We know they don’t understand farming but it’s still the mainstay of the economy and there’s a lot of other things happening outside the main centres which can’t afford the damage a left-wing urban government could inflict on them.

It will be even worse with a strong Green Party influence as well.

A government without connections to and an understanding of the provinces and their needs and concerns isn’t one which will be governing for the good of the country in both senses of the word.

Update:

Spot the irony – in today’s ODT Labour leader David Shearer is quoted:

There was no doubt the regions had been neglected in favour of the country’s major cities, he said. . .

He’s wrong that the regions have been neglected by the government but it looks like that is what his party is going to be doing in next year’s election campaign.


Labour’s lost love

August 13, 2013

The cover story of this week’s Listener is headlined regaining the love Labour’s lost.

Among the love it’s lost is that of its members:

. . .Membership is up 20% on a year ago, according to party general secretary Tim Barnett. Many of those new members are young people in new youth branches outside the universities.

A 20% increase in members sounds impressive – but it was from a very low base.

The total party membership is a closely held secret but is somewhere between 5000 and 10,000. . .

Anything I’ve seen and heard suggests the lower figure is more accurate but even if the higher one is right that is still a pitiful number of members for an organisation purporting to be a major party, especially when some aren’t real people but union affiliates.

Even at its nadir National membership was still more than twice the higher figure, all of them real individuals, and a resurgence in membership was reflected in voter support.

Members matter for the party and democracy.

They work for and finance the party’s operation and campaigns, they’re involved in policy formation and they help keep MPs focussed on how their policies affect people.

That a future government could be led by a party which can’t measure its core support in 10s of thousands and would be propped up by several wee parties that would be unlikely to muster more than a very few thousand members between them is very, very frightening.

It’s bad enough under any system, but worse under MMP which gives a lot more power to parties.


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