Rural round-up

November 2, 2013

Fonterra on notice – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra is on notice from its leading independent director, Sir Ralph Norris, that another food safety scare would have serious global implications.

While it may be inaccurate and unfair, Fonterra is saddled with the melamine adulteration in China in 2008 and the DCD fertiliser concerns earlier this year, followed by the precautionary recall because of a botulism scare in August.

“That means it is important for Fonterra to learn from the whey protein concentrate events. The fact that the botulism scare was a false alarm doesn’t diminish the work of (our) inquiry,” Norris said. . .

Focus goes on communication – Alan Williams:

Fonterra’s communications team is being renewed as public relations contractor Baldwin Boyle Group (BBG) makes way for more in-house employees.

Five of the 33 recommendations made by the independent inquiry for the board concerning the botulism scare in whey protein concentrate are aimed at better communication.

The first recommendation is that Fonterra needs to continue building a directly employed, strong, specialist, and experienced communications team.

That should be done in key global markets, supplemented with contracted, high-calibre local expertise where appropriate. . .

Tough year for tulip grower – Alison Rudd:

Spring brings magnificent swathes of colour to Southland as hundreds of hectares of tulips bloom. But for tulip producers, the flowers are a byproduct and the real value of the plant lies in its bulb. Reporter Allison Rudd talks to one of the van Eeden family about the changing industry.

For many decades, van Eeden Tulips was the only tulip bulb producer in New Zealand of any significance.

For 45 years, it supplied most of the bulbs grown by commercial flower growers, home gardeners and council parks and reserves departments, before branching out into exports in the late 1990s. . . .

More Southland dairy farms expected – Terri Russell:

Low sheep returns and high milk prices have contributed to a rise in dairy farm conversions in Southland.

New dairy farm conversions totalled just seven for the 18-month period to July. But a recent spike in new conversions comes after Fonterra announced its record forecast payout of $8.30 per kilogram.

Environment Southland consents manager Stephen West said there had been more dairy farm conversion applications in the past four months than there had been in almost two years.

The surge in conversion numbers also coincides with the plan change 13 deliberations drawing to a close.

Plan change 13 has required all new dairy farms to obtain a resource consent before becoming operational since April last year, and the decision on whether the rule will become permanent will be made in December. . . .

No dividend, but Alliance’s system sorted – Sally Brooker:

Shareholders who packed out the Alliance Group Ltd roadshow meeting in Oamaru last week were told they are not getting a dividend.

Chairman Murray Taggart, an Oxford farmer who has taken over since Owen Poole retired on September 30, said times had been ”tough for meat processors and exporters”.

The equity ratio and operating cash flow were good, but not sufficient for a dividend. . .

Fonterra Acquires Stake in Bega Cheese Ltd:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited has acquired a 6 per cent shareholding in Australian dairy company Bega Cheese Limited.

The 9.3 million shares were purchased at AUD4.95 per share for a total cost of AUD46 million.

Fonterra Chief Executive Theo Spierings said, “Australia is an important market for Fonterra, and we are committed to growing our already strong presence.

“There has recently been a lot of consolidation activity in the Australian dairy industry. It is important that Fonterra participates, and we have confidence in Bega and the strategy it is pursuing,” said Mr Spierings. . .

Foreign investors buy more South Island farmland:

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has approved the application by a Singaporean investment management company to buy half the shares of New Zealand Pastures Limited, a locally-owned company that operates seven South Island sheep and beef farms.

The farms :Three Rivers, Grantham Springs, Hitchin Hills, Quailburn, Hills Creek, The Styx and Huntleigh, cover almost 23,500 hectares.

Singapore company Duxton Asset Management is buying the shares on behalf of itself and two other overseas investment funds. . . .

Stalwart’s last stand gets support of mates – Ruth Grundy:

When his mates got wind John Hough was making his ”last stand”, they thought they would go along for the ride.

The Rakaia shearer and Shearing Sports New Zealand official who will only admit to being ”not 70 yet” began shearing at 18 and first competed in open-class shearing 40 years ago. . . .

#gigatownoamaru appreciates its rural hinterland.


Rural round-up

September 30, 2013

Dung beetle holds dairy farm hopes – Alison Rudd:

Could dung beetles be the environmental warriors New Zealand dairy farmers have been waiting for?

They happily chew through the poo, turning waste into soil fertiliser. And with the average dairy cow producing 11 cow pats every day, the beetles have plenty of work ahead of them.

The national Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group (DBRSG) this week released its first 500 dung beetles into the ”wild” on an organic dairy farm at Tuturau, near Wyndham. Beetles will also be released soon on three other farms elsewhere in the country.

DBRSG chairman John Pearce, who flew from Auckland to supervise the release, said the beetles were expected to naturally spread to all properties, although that would take many years. . .

Prison farm work fodder for future –  Timothy Brown:

The entranceway to the 21st century edifice which occupies a 60ha site outside Milton is the last landmark before tarseal gives way to gravel on Narrowdale Rd.

Just around the corner, two large gum trees stand guard at the entrance to a dairy farm and down the driveway workers can be seen performing their daily tasks.

They look like workers on any dairy farm, but at the end of the working day these workers will return to that edifice in the distance because this is the Otago Corrections Facility’s dairy farm.

At the end of the driveway, I am greeted by the dairy farm’s principal instructor, Tony Russell. . .

Farmer ownership imperative – Sally Rae:

Finding the solutions to implement change in the red meat industry is still the major barrier in reaching the Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) group’s goals, chairman Richard Young says.

In his inaugural chairman’s report, Mr Young said meat company talks had offered no solution to date. However, those talks were still continuing.

What it did offer, if successful, was a managed approach to dealing with overcapacity.

Managed rationalisations would have less impact on all stakeholders and offer better outcomes than unmanaged rationalisations. . .

Pastures to boost hill country production:

AT LEAST 40% of New Zealand is too steep to cultivate yet still less than 1000m above sea-level.

The challenges of improving pasture on such land are considerable, but as the early results of a long-term project show, establishment of more productive species is possible.

What’s more, with the work on four contrasting sites around the country (see panel) on-going as part of the Pastoral 21* initiative, the findings promise to fine-tune best practice for improving and maintaining such country in the future. . .

Best practice could cut emissions by 30%: FAO:

GREENHOUSE GAS emissions by the livestock sector could be cut by as much as 30% through the wider use of existing best practices and technologies, according to a new study released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The report, Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities, represents the most comprehensive estimate made to-date of livestock’s contribution to global warming – as well as the sector’s potential to help tackle the problem.

All told, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with livestock supply chains total 14.5% of all human-caused GHG releases. . .

All eyes on cute badger cull in the UK – Steve Wyn-Harris:

Recently I had eight English sheep farmers come for a farm visit. (There are nine Mexicans coming tomorrow, so perhaps it will be 10 Lithuanians next week).

One of them was Charles Sercombe, who is the National Farmers Union (NFU) livestock chairman. He farms in Leicestershire.

He told me the main issues in front of the union are the Common Agricultural Policy reform and their attempts to get on top of tuberculosis (Tb), which involves starting a badger cull.

This piqued my interest, so I asked him in detail about the issue. Tb has become a major problem and one of the vectors is the badger. . .

 

A Banks Peninsula company has won New Zealand’s top olive oil award for the second year running.

Robinsons Bay Olives from Akaroa took the best in show award as well as best in class in the commercial medium blend class at the New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Awards, where international judges commented on the high quality of the oils produced here. . .

Let’s move from fossil farming to future-proof farming:

“The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides a stark choice for New Zealand agriculture,” says Brendan Hoare, Chair of OANZ (Organics Aotearoa New Zealand). “We either grasp this opportunity to move away from fossil farming to future-proof farming – or we keep making the problem of climate change even worse by the way we farm. The status quo of more dams, more fertilisers and more animals per hectare is at least 20 years out of date. It is time to change the guard and our thinking.”  . .


Rural round-up

April 27, 2013

NZ Super Fund sells forestry blocks to Chines, local investors – Paul McBeth:

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund, which today said the value of its portfolio topped $22 billion, has sold the bulk of 11 forestry blocks in the North Island to China National Forest Products Trading Corp for an undisclosed sum, with the remaining going to local investors.

The Chinese company, a subsidiary of state-owned China Forestry Group Corp, bought the majority of the portfolio, subject to Chinese regulatory approval, after getting the thumbs up from New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office, the super fund said in a statement.

The Cullen Fund, so-called for its architect former Finance Minister Michael Cullen, was looking for a buyer for the blocks last year, when it valued the estates at some $91.1 million as at June 30. General manager investments Matt Whineray said the sale would let the fund focus on other domestic and international investment opportunities. . . 

Pivotal time for central farms – Mark Price:

Dozens of centre-pivot irrigation machines installed in the past couple of years are turning the dry plains of Central Otago into lush meadows. But, as Mark Price reports, this is just the beginning.

One farm on the flat near Tarras installed four irrigation pivots over the summer.

Another, on terraces above Tarras, installed eight or nine.

And, when the Tarras water scheme goes ahead there will be room for another 80 to 90 in that area alone.

In the world of irrigation, pivots are the state-of-the-art way of growing crops to feed dairy cows. . .

Maori land bursting with farm potential -Ben Dalton:

Primary industries generate over 70 per cent of New Zealand’s merchandise exports.

You’d be forgiven then for thinking that every last hectare of rural land is producing at its maximum. But you’d be wrong.

It has been known for some time that a significant proportion of Maori land is not delivering its potential.

A 2011 Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry report estimated that close to one million hectares were under-productive.

Now, a report commissioned by the Ministry of Primary Industries has allowed a glimpse of what’s at stake in bringing this land into full production – for Maori, the primary industries, and the country. . .

Quest for semi-rural playground – Alison Rudd:

The organisation which runs most of Southland’s kindergartens wants to buy a back yard for urban children who have no access to a semi-rural playground.

Kindergarten South wants a 1ha block close to Invercargill with trees, native bush and perhaps a stream. It will be a place where the 3 and 4-year-olds can ”get back to good old-fashioned play”, business development manager Sandra King said.

”It’s somewhere where they can climb trees, dig worms, puddle in water, draw pictures on the ground using sticks, learn to take a bit of a risk.”. . .

Delegat’s buys Australia’s Barossa Valley Estate assets out of receivership for A$24.7M – Paul McBeth:

Delegat’s Group has bought the assets of Australia’s Barossa Valley Estate out of receivership for A$24.7 million, just two months after snapping up the distressed vineyard and winery assets of Matariki Wines and Stony Bay Wines.

The Auckland-based winemaker, whose stable includes the Oyster Bay brand, will acquire a 5,000 tonne winery, a 41 hectare vineyard in the Barossa Valley, grape grower contracts and inventory and brands, it said in a statement. The deal is expected to settle in June, and will be funded through existing bank facilities. . .

Gunn Estate Ups the Ante With Reserve Range:

Hawke’s Bay’s popular Gunn Estate has just launched a range of Reserve wines, adding to the long history of the brand.

The 2012 Reserve range includes Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Merlot/Cabernet varieties, made with grapes from specially selected vineyards in Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough.

Gunn Estate spokesman Denis Gunn says the new range represents the brand’s strong tradition.

“The Gunn Family has worked the land in Hawke’s Bay since 1920 and these wines are about keeping the passion and determination of three generations alive and well,” Mr Gunn says.


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