Rural round-up

25/02/2022

Forestry rule changes for overseas investors planning to convert farmland – Maja Burry:

The government is winding back rules which have made it easier for foreign investors to purchase farmland in New Zealand for forestry conversions.

The special forestry test is used when an investor is looking to invest in production forestry for harvesting.

It was introduced in late 2018 in a bid to support the government’s forestry priorities, including more tree planting.

Farming groups have repeatedly called on the government to urgently review foreign investment in forestry, warning too much productive farmland was being lost . .

Passion fruit growers lose up to 80% of crop to Fasarium disease – Sally Murphy:

Some of the country’s passion fruit growers have lost up to 80 percent of their crop due to a plant disease.

Fasarium – also known as passion fruit wilt – is a fungus that infects the plant through the roots, travels up the plant stem and cause the leaves to yellow, killing the plant.

NZ Passion fruit Growers Association president Rebekah Vlaanderen said the disease had been more prevalent in the last two years due to warmer weather.

“It was first discovered here in 2015 but we think it’s probably always been here, it’s pretty common overseas,” Vlaanderen said. . . 

TEG wins Gold Award for  project to keep meat processing industry safe :

Workers at some of Aotearoa’s largest meat processing plants are feeling safer at work thanks to a large-scale project by TEG Risk and Sustainability Services that has won Gold at the ACE Awards Tuesday 22 February.

TEG was employed by ANZCO Foods, Bremworth, Sanford, and Alliance Group to identify risks at their seven plants across the country to meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

One of the biggest meat processors in the country with 2,800 machines and 5,000 employees, Alliance Group needed a pragmatic and risk-effective approach. TEG worked on a massive scale to identify nearly 7,000 risks. . . 

Record first half earnings at Comvita:

§ Record H1 operating profit $7.2m, +39.4% versus PCP (+2.0m)

§ Record H1 EBITDA $12.1m, +14.1% versus PCP (+$1.5m)

Double digit top and bottom-line growth in focus growth markets, China and North America

Double digit top and bottom-line growth in Mānuka honey product category . . 

Wireless providers ready to speed up rural broadband:

New Zealand’s wireless internet service providers are gearing up to take part in a major upgrade to benefit New Zealand’s rural Internet users.

$47 million dollars is going to be spent to upgrade New Zealand’s rural broadband capacity with the goal of increasing the internet speed of 47,000 rural households and businesses by the end of 2024.

The Minister for the Digital Economy, David Clark, made the announcement yesterday, saying the Rural Capacity Upgrade will see cell towers upgraded and new towers built in rural areas experiencing poor performance, as well as fibre, additional VDSL coverage and other wireless technology deployed in congested areas.

Mike Smith, the head of WISPA NZ, the group representing more than 30 wireless internet service providers around New Zealand, says this is a great step up for many rural households. . . 

The hidden life of a farmer: playful cows, imperious sheep – and a grinding struggle for survival – Sirin Kale:

The UK has some of the cheapest food in the world, but thanks to spiralling costs and the effects of Brexit, farmers like Rachel Hallos are on the edge. She explains why she could soon lose the way of life she loves – and her family depends on.

The stereotype is that farmers are up with the crowing cockerel, but that’s only really dairy farmers. Most days it is not until 7.45am that you’ll find Rachel Hallos swinging open the door of Beeston Hall Farm in Ripponden, Yorkshire. Beeston Hall is a hill farm overlooking Baitings reservoir, which lies in the valley of the River Ryburn. The 800-hectare (2,000-acre) farm consists of steep fields demarcated by dry stone walls that crumble in a squall. The hill is crested by heather-covered moorland that turns purple in summer and copper in autumn. Hallos lives in a traditional Pennines farmhouse made out of handsome slabs of grey Yorkshire gritstone. A Brontë house, for Brontë country. Inside, wan light streams through single-pane windows on to a well-trodden oak staircase that creaks.

Hallos steps outside, dressed in a padded waterproof coat and wellies. She is met by a cacophony of noise. Her terrier Jack yaps with shrill urgency. Jim, a border collie, barks incessantly. Hallos feeds the dogs and then the two scrawny black-and-white cats, which sleep in the outbuildings and yowl for treats at the kitchen window. She fills a sack with hay that is sweet-smelling and almost yeasty, from the fermentation process that takes place when it is stored in plastic for the winter months. She hoists the sack on to her shoulder like Father Christmas and takes it to feed Aiden and Danny, her dun geldings.

It is late October 2021. Autumn is Hallos’s favourite season. The trees around the reservoir are gold-flecked, ochre and vermilion. Her herd of 200 cows and calves and flock of 400 sheep are out in the fields. The cows will return when the frost sets in; the sheep stay out all winter. Hallos usually feels a sense of quiet satisfaction this time of year. The autumn calves are grazing beside their mothers in the fields. The sheds have been power-hosed and disinfected, ready for winter. There’s a bit of breathing room, after the rigours of summer: the never-ending hay baling and attending to the newborn calves and lambs. In autumn, Hallos can start to plan for the spring calves and lambs. Which tup will go with which sheep, and which bull with which cow? . . 


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.


Rural round-up

12/12/2021

Shipping delays and staff shortages bite the meat industry – Rachael Kelly:

Farmers are starting to struggle to get stock killed because staff shortages and shipping woes are causing major issues in the meat industry.

Ben Dooley, a farmer from Mimihau in Southland, said he had 200 ewes booked in with Alliance Group next week, but he was worried about finding more space for stock in the coming months.

“It’s definitely concerning. If this shipping container issue doesn’t get sorted out then we’re going to have some big problems in the next few months.”

The Alliance Group and Silver Fern Farms both say chronic labour shortages and global supply chain issues were causing problems. . .

Cheap accommodation, social sport used to entice workers for orchard jobs – Sally Murphy:

Efforts to attract workers to pick and pack fruit this summer are heating up – with more employers offering incentives to attract workers.

On the PickNZ website where orchards and packhouses advertise jobs, 42 percent are offering accommodation and 30 percent are offering bonuses.

Just under 20 percent are offering transport, social events and flexible working hours.

One company advertising on the site is Clyde Orchards. . . 

Fonterra’s Hurrell says New Zealand milk is the most valuable in the world – Tina Morrison:

New Zealand’s grass-fed farming model makes the country’s milk the most valuable in the world, Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell told farmers at the co-operative’s annual meeting in Invercargill.

Since taking over from Theo Spierings, Hurrell has moved Fonterra away from expanding its milk pools overseas, and brought the focus back to getting more value from the “white gold” produced by New Zealand farmers. His shift in strategy comes at a time when consumers are wanting to know more about where their food comes from and the environmental impact it leaves.

“We believe New Zealand milk is the most valuable milk in the world due to our grass-fed farming model, which means our milk has a carbon footprint around 70 per cent lower than the global average,” Hurrell told farmers. . .

 

River restoration starting to flow – Colin Williscroft:

The Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum recently won the supreme award at the 2021 Cawthron New Zealand River Awards for the catchment that has made the most progress towards improved river health. Colin Williscroft reports.

In a little over a decade, the Manawatū River has gone from being identified through Cawthron Institute research as one of the most polluted in the western world to that same organisation now celebrating the work being done to clean it up.

The Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum was established in 2010 in response to freshwater health problems facing the catchment.

The previous year Cawthron research showed the river topped a pollution measurement taken on 300 rivers across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand for all the wrong reasons. . .

Kiwifruit companies to amalgamate :

Seeka announces third amalgamation in 2021

 Gisborne growers will be delivered a stronger service with the proposed amalgamation of NZ Fruits and Seeka Limited.

In an agreement announced 10 December 2021, NZ Fruits shareholders are being offered Seeka shares and cash for their NZ Fruits shares. Seeka chief executive Michael Franks says the deal will enable Seeka to service the Gisborne region.

“The amalgamation will deliver a strong service to Gisborne growers,” says Franks. . . 

Research aims to develop more resilient sauvignon blanc vines :

An $18.7 million programme is aiming to introduce genetic diversity of New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc grapevines.

The Bragato Research Institute is partnering with New Zealand Winegrowers, more than 20 wine companies and the NZ Viticulture Nursery Association on the seven-year programme.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor the vines were based on one clone which presented some risk.

“Developing improved, commercially-available variants of this grape variety will also act as an industry insurance policy against future risks from pests, disease and changing markets. . . 


Rural round-up

26/11/2021

Carbon farming – farmer’s poem for the Prime Minister – Graeme Williams:

East Coast farmer and bush poet Graeme Williams is back with another poem for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Today he wants to take the Government to task over carbon farming and shares his poem, written at 2 o’clock this morning – his “least angry period of the day”.

Dear Aunty Jacinda,
From you we have not heard.
I’ve written to you twice before
And this will be my third.

I’m really, really annoyed
And I think it’s only fair,
That the reason for the annoyance
With the country, I should share.

Carbon farming will ruin us all.
Of that, I have no doubt.
I am acutely aware of the issues
And wish to share my views about. . . 

Alliance Group financial performance lifts – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group’s improved financial performance is a ‘‘favourable result’’ after another challenging year, chairman Murray Taggart says.

The co-operative yesterday announced an operating profit of $41.9million before tax and distributions for the year ending September 30, up from $27.3million last year.

Last year’s result was heavily impacted by a $19.9million provision for back-paying employees for donning and doffing. This year’s result included an allowance of just over $2million for that.

Revenue of $1.8billion was on a par with last year and a profit distribution of $8.5million would be made to farmer shareholders, in addition to $16.7million in loyalty payments already paid over the course of the year. . .

Fish & Game supports calls for forestry refocus :

Fish & Game NZ is supporting calls for an urgent rethink on the rapid proliferation of exotic forests currently being supported by central government, and instead refocus on native plantings for better long-term environmental and social outcomes.

The Native Forest Coalition – comprising the Environmental Defence Society, Pure Advantage, Road Donald Trust, the Tindall Foundation, Project Crimson, Dame Anne Salmon and Dr Adam Forbes – recently released a statement urging a shift away from “short-term thinking and siloed government policy” in tackling climate change.

Central to the Native Forest Coalition’s concerns is current policy favouring carbon sequestering in exotic pine plantations over native forests, which is being driven by high carbon prices. This is having a myriad of adverse impacts.

“While Fish & Game is behind initiatives to address the climate crisis, the current short-sighted focus on securing offshore carbon credits ignores significant long-term environmental and social problems,” says Fish & Game spokesman Ray Grubb. . . 

Lake Ohau narrative goes up in smoke – David Williams:

On closer inspection, luck played a bigger part in no one losing their life in last year’s Lake Ōhau Alpine Village fire. David Williams reports

It was the country’s most damaging wildfire in living memory.

The early-morning conflagration in October last year destroyed most of the houses in the Mackenzie Basin’s Lake Ōhau Alpine Village, burning through more than 5000 hectares, including conservation land.

The costs were eye-watering. Fighting the fire from the air alone cost more than $1.2 million, while insurance losses totalled about $35 million. . . 

The wizard of woolsheds for 41 years – Alice Scott:

If your woolshed has been built by Calder Stewart in the past 41 years, chances are Dave Mathieson probably built it.

Mr Mathieson (61) started out with Calder Stewart at the age of 20 and, apart from a short stint working on commercial builds in the late ’80s, he has enjoyed a career as a foreman specialising in woolshed builds.

Being based in Milton, Mr Mathieson and his crew will travel up to an hour and-a-half for work and in his early years he would often stay away.

“I probably stay away for one job a year, but I’d like to think I am mostly done with that now. After all these years, I am allowed to make that demand,” he laughed. . . 

Unvaccinated shearers continue to work – Annabelle Cleeland:

Unvaccinated shearers are continuing to work, despite Victoria’s sweeping effort to compel most agricultural workers to receive two doses of the coronavirus vaccine before Friday.

Victorian shearing contractors have complained to Shearers Contractors’ Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford about unvaccinated shearers and shed staff continuing work in a “concerning cash economy”.

“I thought the way it would roll would be that unvaccinated shearers would find work in NSW, but the concern I have is they have stayed and they are finding enough work in Victoria,” Mr Letchford said.

“We have tried the positive approach with these people who are resistant to being vaccinated. . . 


Rural round-up

07/09/2021

B+LNZ remains unconvinced by low-slope map :

The Government’s new proposed low-slope map for stock exclusion is better than the original, however the map still won’t practically work on the ground, says Beef+Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

The Government is consulting on a revised map after the original mis-identified thousands of hectares of steep land across New Zealand as ‘low-slope’ and therefore requiring stock exclusion or fencing.

It is also consulting on a proposed certified freshwater farm planning approach. B+LNZ has released factsheets outlining key issues and guidance for farmers on both consultations and will be making submissions incorporating farmer feedback.

It will also be making a submission on the changes to the intensive winter grazing rules announced last week. . . 

NAIT  tackles lifestyles – Annette Scott:

Lifestylers have become a key focus for Ospri as it ups the efficiency of the national animal identification tracing (NAIT) programme.

Ospri head of traceability Kevin Forward says a lot of lifestyle properties now border farms and it’s important these property owners understand their responsibility when it comes to owning animals.

Real Estate New Zealand statistics show more than 7000 lifestyle properties change hands every year.

Whether you have a dozen animals or even just one, as person in charge of animals (PICA) there is a legal obligation to register with Nait and keep your account up-to-date if managing NAIT animals. . .

Careful paddock selection first step in winter forage crop programme :

Wintering practices have changed on Robert Young’s Southland farm over the past 10 years.

A continual process of fine-tuning the management of their winter forage crops to protect their soil and water resources is paying dividends, with less mud, reduced run-off and content livestock.

Robert and his family farm a 970ha rolling to steep sheep, beef and dairy support property near Gore.

Winter forage crops, namely fodder beet and swedes, are an important part of their farm system; both as part of their pasture renewal programme and to grow a bulk of quality feed for sheep and cattle over the depths of winter. . . 

AGL’s Nelson plant rolls out covid-19 vaccines :

Alliance Group Ltd’s Nelson plant is rolling out covid-19 vaccinations to staff and immediate family members within their “bubble”.

Sixty-nine workers and 10 of their family members received their first covid-19 vaccinations at the plant on Thursday in a joint initiative between Alliance and Te Piki Oranga Ltd, a local Māori healthcare provider. Approximately 40 employees at the plant have already been vaccinated.

Te Piki Oranga staff worked with the Nelson plant’s health and safety manager Sheryl Edwards to provide the immunisations at the plant. The second of the two vaccinations required will be provided at the plant in six weeks’ time.  . . 

FarmIQ appoints respected ago-leader as its new chairman:

FarmIQ is ‘bringing it all together’ with the announcement of Warren Parker as Chairman of its Board of Directors.

Warren brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in agricultural systems, farm management, and governance while also being experienced in working effectively with government.

His vision for FarmIQ in the next five years is founded on this experience and the increased market and compliance expectations placed on farmers, “It has all the ingredients and ambition necessary to become the national leading software choice for land managers in New Zealand and will have grown its presence internationally.”

FarmIQ can only achieve this by being a good partner, respectful collaborator and admired for its practicality but he says “there is a lot to do but I’m excited by the high caliber of their people and their enthusiasm to help farmers.” The power of a platform approach is other software providers can offer their tailored solutions while farmers need to enter data only once. This is well proven in the banking and other sectors, and there is no reason it cannot be just as successful in the rural sectors. . .

Beef giant Brazil halts China exports after confirming two mad cow disease cases – Nayara Figueiredo:

Brazil, the world’s largest beef exporter, has suspended beef exports to its No. 1 customer China after confirming two cases of “atypical” mad cow disease in two separate domestic meat plants, the agriculture ministry said on Saturday.

The suspension, which is part of an animal health pact agreed between China and Brazil and is designed to allow Beijing time to take stock of the problem, begins immediately, the ministry said in a statement. China will decide when to begin importing again, it added.

The suspension is a major blow for Brazilian farmers: China and Hong Kong buy more than half of Brazil’s beef exports.

The cases were identified in meat plants in the states of Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais, the ministry said. It said they were the fourth and fifth cases of “atypical” mad cow disease that have been detected in Brazil in 23 years. . . 


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