Word of the day

19/01/2022

Poltroon – an abject or contemptible utter coward;  a dastard; a mean-spirited person; a worthless wretch.


Rural round-up

19/01/2022

Vaccination critical – MPI boss – Peter Burke:

Vaccination against Covid-19 is absolutely critical to the success of the whole primary sector.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director-general Ray Smith told Rural News that he’s encouraging every business in the primary sector to get their people vaccinated and have strong supporting policies around this.

“It underpins our mobility as individuals and for firms to prosper without having sickness,” he says. “My own organisation with 4,000 staff has a 97% vaccination rate and now, unless you have been vaccinated, you can’t come into work here.”

Smith admits one of the big challenges for MPI in 2022 will be bedding in the environmental changes, which he claims are needed to improve NZ’s sustainability and farming practices. He says the country is starting in a good place but it has more to do. . . 

Strong carbon prices blow into new year – Richard Rennie:

A new year surge in the New Zealand carbon values has caught the market by surprise, with traders anticipating values may well impact upon the first carbon auction of the year due to be held in mid-March.

Values for mid-January are now trading at $72.10 a unit, with a bullish sentiment on the market also reflected in future spot prices. The contracted market has April 2023 values trading at $75.20, and April 2026 at $83.40 a unit.

Lizzie Chambers, director of carbon trading company Carbon Match, said trading is now characterised by a myriad of buyers and sellers across the breadth of the market, including investors, farmers and emitters requiring credits to operate.

“Over the new year the market really gapped it from $69.50 to $71.50 a unit very quickly. It appears almost as if there was a decision made by many buyers first off at the start of the year to get in and tick the box on buying,” Chambers said. . . 

Launch of new social enterprise set to boost sustainably sourced wool sales :

The launch of a new tech start-up and social enterprise is set to provide a significant boost for New Zealand’s sustainably sourced wool sales.

Comfi provides a sleep solution for a child in need, including a single bed and base, and a pillow for every five beds sold.

The company is the brainchild of Vicki Eriksen and Susie Harris who developed the concept after struggling to find suitable beds online during the first Covid lockdown.

Other shareholders in the start-up include Neat Meat chief executive Simon Eriksen, Jucy co-founder Tim Alpe, and director/investor Andrew Harris. . . 

Hopes new tech will attract top cherry pickers :

Central Otago cherry producer Tarras Cherry Corp has implemented New Zealand-developed orchard management technology this season to attract and reward productive workers.

Orchard and project manager Ross Kirk said the company was the first New Zealand cherry business to implement radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology developed by Auckland software firm Dataphyll.

“At a time when pickers are in short supply, investing in smart technologies is a way to attract and retain quality workers.

“We want to lead the charge as an innovative and progressive operation throughout the supply chain,” he said. . . 

Food and Fibre Careers Day doubles in size as universities come on board:

The Westpac Agri Futures Careers Expo is returning to Palmerston North in March with an expanded line-up of attendees that will offer more exciting pathways into rural employment for young New Zealanders.

Hosted in association with Property Brokers and the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Expo provides youth and those interested in a food and fibre career with the chance to explore possible careers and job opportunities throughout the food and fibre industry.

The event is for secondary and area school students from Paraparaumu through to Napier and across to New Plymouth. It’s run as part of the Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games in Te Marae o Hine/The Square in Palmerston North, from March 11-13, 2022.

New Zealand Rural Games Trust Chair Margaret Kouvelis MNZM said the event has grown significantly, attracting attention from tertiary providers from across the country as well as more local businesses. . . 

Young Winemaker national final heads to Central Otago for first time :

The 2021 Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Winemaker of the Year National Final is finally set to go ahead on Thursday 3 February 2022, following postponement last year. For the very first time the National Final will be held in Central Otago with the competition taking place at Amisfield Winery in the Pisa Ranges near Cromwell.

The Awards Dinner will be held the same evening at the stunning venue – The Canyon at Tarras Vineyard in Bendigo. The 2021 national champion will be announced that evening.

This programme supports emerging Young Winemakers helping them upskill, widen their network and giving them a platform to share their ideas for the future.

Having already won their regional competitions, the finalists will be stretched even further and will be tested on all aspects of wine production including laboratory skills, wine market knowledge and wine tasting and judging. . . 


For want of workers . . .

19/01/2022

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The problem in New Zealand is not a shortage of horse shoe nails but a dire shortage of workers:

A critical lack of workers in New Zealand is pushing the meat industry to plead with the Government to urgently allow in more overseas staff.

Major meat processor and exporter Silver Fern Farms says it’s one of the most challenging years to date for accessing skilled labour. It says that the company’s plants are not fully manned and warns that livestock may not be able to be killed – especially if it gets dry – risking hard-fought international markets and valuable export revenue for the country.

“We are presently about 550 people short across our processing network. We have a number of initiatives underway to help address this, including raising our minimum productive rate by 10%,” SFF chief executive Simon Limmer told Rural News.

“However, we are constrained by the historic low unemployment rate here and the reality is that bringing in overseas workers is going to need to be part of the solution. In particular, we’ve been asking the Government to allow us to bring in AIP workers from the Pacific Islands. We’ve had this successful arrangement for 12 years, and it has increased production levels here as well as providing these workers and their family excellent earnings.” . . .

Staff shortages are delaying lamb processing. Feed covers have been good, lessening pressure to get stock away form farms, but recent dry weather could change that.

“The kill profile is late this season and any significant dry period from this point on, coupled with labour-related capacity reductions, will create livestock pressure on farm.”

Alliance Group’s general manager of manufacturing Willie Wiese told Rural News that NZ’s meat processing and exporting sector has a chronic labour shortage and this has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Without sufficient labour, we cannot run our plants at the desired capacity,” he says. “The border closure, as well as the limited managed isolation spots, have prevented us from employing seasonal workers from overseas to help make up the shortfall in numbers we can recruit locally.”

Wiese says Alliance Group is currently between 200-300 workers short during what is an extremely busy processing period, in particular for the Easter chilled programme for the UK and Europe.

“Importantly, we require additional halal butchers. Over 90% of animals are processed in the halal manner because that provides f greater flexibility to send different parts of the same carcass to various markets. That means fewer opportunities for hardworking Kiwis and fewer value-add products going to our markets.” . . 

Prices for red meat are reasonably good this season but that could easily change.

“Building valuable relationships with customers takes time and is underlined by consistently delivering on a commitment to supply product to customer specifications. These relationships are hard won but easily lost when customers have many global choices for supply, and when we don’t have the labour capacity to enable us to deliver to customers’ needs and return greater value to farmers.” . . 

The dairy industry is also short of staff:

Dairy farmers say they urgently need 1,500 overseas workers within the next six months.

While farmers are happy with changes announced last month to the existing class border exception for 200 dairy workers, they desperately need more skilled workers from overseas.

Farmers were happy with the announcement but like so many form this government, the announcement wasn’t followed by action.

Federated Farmers immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says the dairy sector cannot afford another calving season without skilled staff.

“We urgently need reinforcements,” he told Rural News. “We have managed two calving seadons by cutting corners. Staff are burnt out, stress levels are very high and another calving season like the past two years will result in some sad statistics.”

Securing MIQ spots remains the biggest hurdle to get workers into the country. Of the 200 border exceptions for dairy workers issued last year, only a handful arrived in the country. . . 

Border exceptions were welcomed but that’s only the first step in getting workers into the country.

However, Lewis says border exceptions are useless unless the overseas workers can secure MIQ spots.

“I suspect the electric driverless tractor would make a appearance quicker than a MIQ outcome. Border exception is just the first part of the process of getting the overseas workers in,” says Lewis.

Employers and their workers are still faced with a complex and lengthy process to get employees into New Zealand and working on farms.

“Employers and their workers will need to work closely with their respective industry groups to sort MIQ, flights and all the associated paperwork.

“This is not an easy or cheap task for either party, but with unemployment at such low levels this is really the only option for much of the primary industries at the moment.” . . 

Rural contractors are similarly frustrated:

Despite rural contractors being told in mid-December they could bring in 200 skilled machinery operators into the country, not one has been given any MIQ space.

Rural Contractors NZ chief executive Andrew Olsen describes getting MIQ space as like peeling an onion.

“It’s layer after layer and it brings tears of frustration for our members who are already working impossibly long hours and as yet have not even been able to lodge Expressions of Interest for staff positions, which Ministers had approved to come in.”

Olsen says despite the best efforts of MPI staff to help find MIQ beds for the approved operators, the indications now are that few, if any, will be available until March at the earliest for rural contractors.

“This will mean many of them will pass on the option to bring workers in. It’s just too late, too hard and too stressful for contractors who are working their guts out trying to help farmers get in crops and ensure animals can be fed.” 

Olsen says RCNZ and Federated Farmers, supported by MPI, have done everything they could to help contractors meet a crushing labour shortage.

“We understand and respect that the resurgence of another Covid variant and border entry changes have put the squeeze on MIQ,” he adds. “That said, those risks would have been part of the assessment when we had Ministerial approval just on a month ago to bring in the desperately needed 200 machinery operators.”

Olsen says rural contractors whose work is essential to food production and our export economy, find themselves towards the back of the MIQ queue.

Olsen is now calling on the Ministers of Immigration and Agriculture and the Prime Minister’s Office to act.

“We received approval December 12 and now more than a month on we’re looking at another two months before the first arrivals,” he adds. . . 

Harvesting is well under way. Workers are needed now and the shortage will put pressure on existing staff which will increase the risk of accidents and crop wastage.

Primary industries have been one of few bright spots in the export sector.

When the other big export earner – tourism – is in the doldrums with little hope of a turn around in the short to medium term, the need for farming and horticulture to be operating at their peaks is even greater than normal.

The government has been warned about the worker shortage and the consequences of it and last month’s announcement of more MIQ spots gave employers hope.

But like so many other of its announcements it has failed to deliver and so for want of workers primary production and processing are under unsustainable stress.


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