Rural round-up

Promise of plenty – Nigel Stirling:

This year has the potential to be a vintage one for breaking down barriers to New Zealand’s agricultural trade with the rest of the world.

But don’t break out the champagne just yet.

It is a fine line between success and failure in trade negotiations, which have a habit of falling at the last hurdle. . .

Dam directors keep the faith – Tim Fulton:

The 6.2 magnitude earthquake near Eketahuna had Tim Fulton asking what quakes mean for dams like Ruataniwha in Hawke’s Bay.

The Ruataniwha dam will be strong enough to withstand a large earthquake, project manager Graeme Hansen says.

The planning team had done quake investigations to death, he said.

The Mohaka fault goes through the water-storage scheme’s proposed reservoir area.

“It’s certainly been a bone of contention, or should I say a topic of conversation, around building a water-storage structure on or near a major fault,” Hansen said. . .

Dairying boost tipped for economy – Christopher Adams:

Economists say a combination of rising international dairy prices and favourable farming conditions bode well for New Zealand’s economic growth, which is already expected to outpace most other developed nations this year.

Dairy product prices in Tuesday night’s GlobalDairyTrade auction rose 1.4 per cent from the last sale on January 8, led by surging prices for butter and cheese. Those two products have posed problems for Fonterra as their prices lagged behind whole milk powder.

The average winning price was US$5025 ($6040) a tonne from US$4953 a tonne at the last auction. About 41,024 tonnes of product was sold, down from 46,418 two weeks ago, for about US$206.1 million. . .

Manuka authentication project:

An organisation representing most of the country’s manuka honey producers says it’s got the backing of a major overseas customer for a project authenticating the highly-prized honey.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has begun working on a new guideline for New Zealand’s most valuable honey, after concerns were raised in some overseas markets about false claims and labelling for manuka, which commands top prices for its anti-bacterial and healing qualities.

Meanwhile, the Unique Manuka Factor or Honey Association is collecting samples from around the country to establish a chemical profile of manuka. . .

Looking forward to 2014 – Kirsten Bryant;

There’s been plenty to keep us occupied on the farm over January, so it’s been very much a case of head down. But, out the corner of my eye, I optimistically note that we’ve had great grass growth and improved stock performance.

Year to date, my impression is that, while we don’t have the certainty of price that dairy farmers enjoy, sheep and beef farmers are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. It’s amazing the effect available feed and forecast rain have on the soul and, consequently, our outlooks. It feels good.

This week, I had the privilege of listening to the inspirational Kevin Biggar – one half of TVNZ’s First Crossings’ duo. Kevin was speaking about his journey from self-admitted couch potato, to Trans-Atlantic rower and South Pole adventurer. . .

Rabbits threatens our gin and tonic: Wild animals are overgrazing on juniper berries:

Wild rabbits are threatening the traditional British gin and tonic by over-grazing on juniper berries – a key ingredient of the drink.

The animals have eaten so many plants that experts fear the juniper could be wiped out in parts of the country.

Now a gin manufacturer has donated £1,000 to Steyning Downland Scheme, a charity working to save the ancient plant which is also under threat from disease.

It will use the money from No.3 London Dry Gin to put up fences around the few remaining junipers near Lancing, West Sussex.

It is hoped the barriers will keep the rabbits out and protect the juniper, which gives gin its distinctive bitter taste. . .

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