Rural round-up

Mainland venison marketer calls China home – Sally Rae:

When Hunter McGregor established a business in China four years ago, it was pioneering stuff.

Mr McGregor runs a Shanghai-based venison importing and distribution business, working with specialist New Zealand venison producer Mountain River Venison.

There was no market for venison in China and so it had been about creating both interest and demand for the product – “because it doesn’t sell itself”.

What he has also found is that running a business in China is getting harder. And that, quite simply, was “because it’s China”. “It’s the way things are,” he said. . . 

Looming 6A plan deadline pushed out – Sally Rae:

A significant milestone looms for rural landowners in April next year when new obligations are scheduled to come in to play to comply with the Otago Regional Council’s 6A plan change for rural water quality. But if a proposal from staff, headed to a council meeting this month, gets approval from councillors, that date will be pushed out to April 2023, as rural editor Sally Rae reports.

In a nutshell, Otago Regional Council chief executive Sarah Gardner says parts of the much-discussed 6A are working really well – but other parts are not.

And with the deadline just months away, the council did not believe it could enforce what was due to come into effect.

Talking to the Otago Daily Times ahead of the council meeting, Ms Gardner stressed the ORC was “absolutely not” walking away from its responsibilities around water quality, which remained its number one priority. . . 

Fonterra’s losses provide more questions than answers – Keith Woodford:

The forthcoming asset write downs of more than $800 million announced on 12 August by Chairman John Monaghan are clearly damaging to Fonterra’s balance sheet. It also means that Fonterra will now make a loss for the year of around $600 million. However, the implications go much further than that.

The losses mean that Fonterra will need to sell more assets to bring its ‘debt to asset ratio’ under control. The losses also ping back to the balance sheets of its farmer members, where the Fonterra shares are assets against which these farmer members have their own debts. Many dairy farmers are already struggling with their balance sheets, with banks now requiring debt repayments on loans that used to be interest-only.

If these write downs are the full story, then Fonterra will survive. The big question is whether these are all of the write downs, both for now and the foreseeable future. . . 

Farmers are getting more milk from each cow – they deserve a much better performance from Fonterra  –  Point of Order:

This   is the second  chapter  in the  woes  of  Fonterra, and  behind  it   the  dairy industry,  on  which the  New Zealand  economy is  so  dependent.

Point of Order   listed  some of those  woes    last  week.  Now, in the  wake  of  the latest  revelation,  Fonterra  will  have to absorb a loss of between $590m and $675m for the current financial year.

Critics   of the industry have  sprung  to the attack:  Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones is calling Fonterra’s management “corporate eunuchs” and labels Fonterra’s board as “grossly inept”. . . 

Meat prices drive increase in overall food price index:

Rising meat prices drove food prices up in July 2019, Stats NZ said today.

Meat and poultry prices rose 2.8 percent, with higher prices for chicken, lamb, and beef, partly offset by falling pork prices.

Chicken pieces were a big driver of the monthly price rise, up 7.0 percent. The weighted average price in July was $8.61 per kilogram compared to June ($8.05 per kilo). As well as being a big contributor to the monthly change, chicken pieces were up 8.8 percent annually. In July 2018, the weighted average price for chicken pieces was $7.91 per kilogram.

Lamb chop prices reached an all-time high in July, up 1.7 percent. The weighted average price was $17.70 per kilogram compared with $17.41 in June and $16.33 a year ago. . . 

Finding the Will to Live

When Elle Perriam’s partner ended his own life in 2017, she set about changing the lives of others, embarking on a national tour in June to encourage farmers to ‘Speak Up’

New Zealand is in what can only be called a mental health crisis. Around 500 New Zealanders per year die by suicide, and we have some of the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD. The statistics are even worse in the rural demographic, where suicide rates are 20–50 per cent higher than in urban areas. The pressures of agriculture, coupled with the typical stoic, silent culture that permeates rural New Zealand can mean that those who are struggling often find it difficult to seek help, or to talk about their private battles. Geographical isolation can also be a factor, with some farm workers employed on remote high-country stations for months at a time with limited off-farm contact.

In December 2017, 21-year-old North Otago farm worker Will Gregory tragically ended his life, leaving his family, friends and girlfriend Elle Perriam devastated. Following Will’s death, Elle, a Lincoln University student, looked for a way to create positive change in the rural mental health sector, and the idea for the ‘Will to Live Speak Up Tour’ was born. Elle, with the help of her sister Sarah, launched the tour at the Hunterville Huntaway Festival in October 2018, with Will’s black Huntaway Jess as mascot. . . 

It’s a tough time being a farmer these days – Kate Hawkesby:

It’s a tough time to be a farmer these days. I really feel for them. Sure, they’ve been through lots of good and bad times, that’s the nature of farming, but it feels like this current climate is really tough.

Farming seems under fire from the government in a changing climate of new taxes, regulations, rules. it costs more to be on a farm these days. And that’s before we even get to Fonterra.

After massive write-downs of its assets, Fonterra’s forecasting a huge loss this financial year of around $675 million. That’s the second biggest loss since it began 20 years ago. No dividends will be paid to shareholders this financial year. . .

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