Rural round-up

PM turns first sod on Central Plains Water irrigation scheme:

Prime Minister John Key today turned the first sod of the $375 million Central Plains Irrigation Scheme near Hororata in Canterbury.

First conceived in 2001, Stage 1 of the 60,000 ha scheme is expected to deliver water to 20,000 ha of Central Canterbury in September next year.

Chief executive Derek Crombie said that the first major work on the $140m first stage, comprising the 17km-long headrace canal and bridges, will commence immediately, with construction of the 130km-long pipeline network picking up momentum mid-year.

“We expect to have up to 150 contractors working on a number of sites in the near future and to this end we are heartened by the experience of our two major contractors, Fulton Hogan/John Holland JV on the headrace canal and Downers, supported by subcontractors Aquaduct NZ Ltd, for the pipe network. . .

Construction begins on Central Plains Water irrigation scheme in Canterbury:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the official start of construction on the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme in Canterbury, which has the potential to create up to $1.4 billion in new economic activity.

“This is a proud day for the Canterbury region, with major benefits both economically and environmentally.

“When fully completed the scheme will irrigate about 60,000ha in the central Canterbury area, bounded by the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers, and the foothills and State Highway 1.

“It’s estimated there will be additional economic activity of between $1 billion and $1.4 billion created, an export boost of $300 million per year, and around 1,100 new fulltime equivalent jobs. . .

Sheep and beef farm profits forecast to increase 35 per cent:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s latest forecast, released today, tells a positive story for farmers and the wider industry.

The organisation’s Mid-Season Update predicts better pricing and strong demand for sheepmeat and beef products from key markets.

The report outlined improved product prices which are expected to drive average sheep and beef farm profit up by 35 per cent on the drought-affected level of last season. The Mid-Season Update estimates that farm profit before tax for the 2013-14 season will rise to an average of $113,700 per farm.

B+LNZ Economic Service Chief Economist Andrew Burtt says total gross farm revenue is expected to increase 9.2 per cent to $460,200, reflecting a 12 per cent increase in sheep revenue. Total farm expenditure is estimated to be up 2.8 per cent, to $346,500, on the back of increases in repairs and maintenance expenditures. Interest expenditure dropped by 2.6 per cent, thanks to a slight decrease in farm debt and lower interest rates. . .

The full report is here.

Agricultural footprint risks getting out of balance – Allan Barber:

While not exactly a new or revolutionary call for action, Fish and Game’s call last week for an independent review of water use and leaching into waterways was another bit of pressure on the future development of New Zealand farming. The organisation has long been agitating for such a review, but the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s critical report on land use and nutrient pollution in waterways has provided it with further ammunition.

Inevitably dairy is cited as the main culprit for the increase in pollution because stocking rates are higher and there is more runoff into rivers and waterways from dairy than from sheep and beef. Fonterra says it has collected nutrient data from nearly 4000 farms which will provide information on how to mitigate the impact of nutrients; in addition fencing of waterways is now an obligatory condition of milk collection, although Fish and Game questions how rigorously this is being audited.

According to modelling by NIWA and Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, by 2020 a further 400,000 hectares of sheep and beef farm land will have been converted to dairy. There will be a large increase in nitrogen runoff in most regions including Canterbury, Southland, Otago and Wellington. . .

Kiwi and Korean deer farmers to work together:

The deer industry plans to work with Korean deer farmers to further build demand for New Zealand deer antler velvet in South Korea, its largest market.

“The Korean Deer Breeders Association used to be opposed to velvet imports, but they now accept that by working together we can grow the pie for their farmers, as well as ours,” says Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) chief executive Dan Coup.

Long part of the allure of deer farming, with an Asian medical pedigree going back thousands of years, velvet has recently stepped into the modern era.

“In South Korea there is growing demand among affluent consumers for health foods and tonics based on traditional ingredients like velvet and ginseng. Because of New Zealand’s reputation for natural, safe and quality-assured product, respected Korean food companies see us as the ideal source of velvet,” Mr Coup says. . . .

Fonterra takes sustainable dairy farming to YouTube:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited is putting dairy farm water and environmental conservation in the spotlight with the launch of a series of YouTube videos focusing on responsible dairying initiatives taking place on New Zealand farms.

Entitled Farm Focus, the series begins today and will feature one farm every Wednesday for four weeks on Fonterra’s YouTube channel. The videos will also be posted on Fonterra’s Facebook and Twitter pages under the hashtag #farmfocus.

The four farms featured are from the central and eastern North Island of New Zealand. Each video accounts for one farm and the activities undertaken to protect waterways and natural resources while enhancing the economic viability of a farm. . . .

Birds are on the menu once more:

The 2014 Gamebird Food Festival is opening this Saturday with restaurants from Kerikeri to Invercargill opening their kitchens to cook either this year’s catch of duck, pheasant and quail, or commercially sourced birds.

So far 13 restaurants have confirmed they are taking part in this year’s Gamebird Food Festival to celebrate the hunting season, which opens on Saturday (3 May).

The aim of Fish & Game New Zealand’s Festival is to promote game birds as a delicious, free-range food source: Hunters can take their own birds into participating restaurants to have them prepared by professional chefs, or non-hunters can choose commercially sourced duck, pheasant or quail from the menu. . .

Yealands Family Wines wins ‘Green Company of the Year’ in leading global sustainability awards:

Yealands Estate has been selected as the “Green Company of the Year” by the UK’s leading drinks publisher, Drinks Business.

The Green Awards are the world’s largest programme in the drinks trade raising awareness of green issues and recognising those leading the way in sustainability and environmental practice.

Founder of Yealands Family Wines, Peter Yealands, says this global recognition is another welcome endorsement of their philosophy, culture and focus on continual environmental improvement. . .

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