Rural round-up

September 29, 2015

PM announces Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary:

Prime Minister John Key has announced the creation of a 620,000 km2 Ocean Sanctuary in the Kermadec region, one of the most pristine and unique environments on Earth.

“The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully-protected areas, preserving important habitats for seabirds, whales and dolphins, endangered marine turtles and thousands of species of fish and other marine life,” Mr Key says.

“It will cover 15 per cent of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, an area twice the size of our landmass, and 50 times the size of our largest national park in Fiordland. . . 

John Key's photo.

“Pretty damned exciting news” say Kermadec campaigners:

Champagne corks popped as the news was released that the Kermadec region has become an ocean sanctuary. Kermadec campaigners Forest & Bird, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and WWF-New Zealand were together when they heard the news.

The Prime Minister John Key made the momentous announcement at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The creation of the Sanctuary once again puts New Zealand at the forefront of marine protection on the international stage.

The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary is located in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,000 km northeast of the Bay of Plenty New Zealand. The area is one of the most geologically diverse in the world. It contains the world’s longest chain of submerged volcanoes and the second deepest ocean trench with a depth of 10 kilometres. . . .

Proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary:

With no forewarning from Government the industry needs time to consider the full implications, Seafood New Zealand Chairman George Clement said.

“The seafood industry is committed to rational and effective marine conservation measures. These include a representative network of BPAs (Benthic Protected Areas) established at the industry’s behest and implemented throughout 30 per cent of the Exclusive Economic Zone, covering an area larger than the Kermadecs. . . 

Tatua Cooperative beats market with $7.10/kgMS payout for 2015 – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Tatua Cooperative Dairy Co, the Tatuanui-based dairy company founded 100 years ago, set the 2015 payout for its farmer suppliers at $7.10 per kilogram of milk solids, the highest of any New Zealand processor, while affirming a drop in payout for 2016.

Revenue rose to $286 million in the 12 months ended July 31, from $266 million a year earlier, the company said in a statement. Earnings before milk payout, retentions and tax fell to $121.2 million, from $136.4 million a year earlier.

Chairman Stephen Allen said the decline in pretax earnings reflected an increase in overall milk collection from farmers in the latest year and the “dramatic decline” in dairy prices. It equates to a payout $7.73/kgMS before retentions and tax. The company retained 63 cents/kgMS before tax. . . 

Migrant worker scam uncovered:

More than 30 Filipino workers reportedly paid $15,000 to obtain false documents clearing them to work on New Zealand dairy farms.

Immigration New Zealand has confirmed multiple Filipino workers have provided false and misleading information when applying for visas here.

Immigration NZ assistant general manager Peter Elms said the department started scrutinising visas more closely after discovering multiple issues, relating to claimed work experience and qualifications.

The department has not confirmed the number of cases that it is aware of, nor whether it was investigating, but the Philippine government said it was investigating at least 30 cases. The Philippine government’s Overseas Employment Administration is also looking into the claims. . . 

Alliance says merger with Silver Fern would risk creating ‘beached whale’ as rival tackles over-capacity – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Alliance Group chairman Murray Taggart says any merger with Silver Fern Farms risks creating a “big beached whale” of the New Zealand meat industry because its rival needs the capital offered by China’s Bright Food just to rationalise plant capacity and reduce its debt burden.

Bright Foods’ Shanghai Maling Aquarius unit has offered to invest $261 million cash in Silver Fern Farms (SFF) to become a 50-50 partner with the Dunedin-based meat company in a deal that would leave the business debt free and with funds to upgrade plants, spend more marketing higher-value meat products and provide a new route into China.

The injection of funds has stoked speculation a stronger SFF could subsequently dictate terms for a tie-up with Alliance, something the two firms have failed to achieve in a decade of sporadic talks. Alliance says it made an offer to SFF prior to the rival embarking on its capital-raising process and had “worked hard to engage with SFF and discuss opportunities for industry consolidation” over the past 10 years. . . 

Partnering with China – Keith Woodford:

This last week I have been in Beijing at the NZ –China Council Forum. Led by Minister Steven Joyce and co-chaired by Sir Don McKinnon, it has been all about building partnerships.

There were about fifty New Zealanders there, including industry folk and staff from the relevant Government ministries – Trade and Enterprise, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Primary Industries. And there was a similar number of Chinese people from industry and their government.

Now to some people, the idea of building partnerships with China is anathema. Ten days ago I was involved in a passionate debate in Wellington about just that topic. It is all right to trade with the Chinese, so the argument went, but we should not think of partnering. The Chinese are different, and we should not in any way imply support for their way of doing business. . . 

Surge in water data for World Rivers Day:

To mark World Rivers Day this Sunday, regional councils are releasing their latest water quality data on the Land, Air, Water, Aotearoa website, which this year includes lake quality monitoring.

Launched in March 2014, www.lawa.org.nz began reporting water quality results at 1100 river sites. Since then, it has expanded into coastal bathing beaches and water allocation, tripling the number of monitoring sites for which data is available.

From this weekend, users will also be able access water quality data for monitored lakes, providing a more complete picture of the quality of New Zealand’s freshwater.

Stephen Woodhead, chair of the regional sector group of Local Government New Zealand, said that public debate showed that rivers and lakes were  important to New Zealanders and regional councils took their role in water stewardship very seriously. . . 

Drought-hit farmers sow grass seed donations – Annabelle Tukia:

Ten north Canterbury farmers are about to get some relief from the drought that has plagued their region for the past year after a group of business owners got together to try to ease the financial burden of the dry spell.

It’s been a tough 12 months on Damian Harrison’s Cheviot farm.

“This drought has been like driving in a tunnel, and you drive and drive and drive and never see daylight at the end,” says Mr Harrison.

But today at last there was a little ray of hope, in the form of Murray Stackhouse and his tractor and drill. The local contractor, along with a machinery company, have got together and are re-sowing grass onto 10 drought-stricken north Canterbury farms for free. . . 

Indonesia reopens door to NZ beef imports:

Indonesian media are reporting that trade officials there have done a u-turn on efforts to cut down imports of beef from New Zealand.

The Indonesian Trade Ministry has issued permits for the State Logistics Agency to import as much as 10,000 tonnes of beef from New Zealand.

The ministry said it wanted to stabilise meat prices in the country, and New Zealand was chosen because the price of beef from here was lower than the cost of Australian meat. . . 

NZ Honey fights MPI over alleged health claims on Manuka Doctor, Manuka Pharm branding – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand Honey International, the closely-held honey products maker, wants a judicial declaration on whether its trademarks Manuka Doctor and Manuka Pharm amount to health claims after the Ministry of Primary Industries withdrew export approvals, blocking the firm’s sales into certain markets.

MPI has been cracking down on the manuka honey industry amid international criticism there was more manuka honey coming out of the country than New Zealand actually produces. With no industry consensus on what constitutes manuka honey, MPI introduced an interim labelling guideline in July 2014 to give the industry clarity and protect consumers from false claims, as well as to try to improve credibility of the manuka products. . . 

Calf collection paves way for fertility project:

A huge logistical exercise that involved collecting hundreds of calves from farms all over the North Island has set the scene for a ground-breaking research programme aimed at lifting fertility rates in the dairy industry.

In recent weeks, heifer calves from 619 farms across Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay have been collected so that they can be reared and milked together as one herd. The “Animal Model” research herd will comprise equal numbers of Holstein Friesian calves with very high and very low fertility genetics, carefully selected from contract matings in spring last year and purchased from farmers by DairyNZ. . . 


Rural round-up

September 27, 2015

Silver Fern Farms could become global brand – Hamish McNeilly:

The head of a Chinese food giant says Silver Fern Farms’ products could one day have the same global brand recognition as Coca Cola.

China’s largest meat processor, Shanghai Maling, plans to invest $261 million cash to own half of Silver Fern Farms’ business, with the co-operative owning the other half.

The company was a listed subsidiary of Bright Food (Group) Co, China’s largest food company, and involved in the manufacturing and distribution of chilled and fresh meat and value-added beef, candy and bottled honey. . .

New milk price is conservative – Hugh Stringleman:

An unexpected jump in milk payout forecast for this season to a more encouraging $4.60/kg of milksolids was the centrepiece of Fonterra’s annual results presentation for the 2015 financial year.

After only three consecutive price rises in fortnightly GlobalDairyTrade auctions Fonterra was emboldened to increase its forecast by 75c or 20% from the dismal $3.85, the record low it sunk to in early August.

Such a quick reflection of price optimism when the season was still young would be welcomed by farm owners, sharemilkers, staff members and rural suppliers as signalling the worst of the price slump was over. . . 

Leaner Fonterra now a quick responder –  Glenys Christian:

Fonterra has finished cutting jobs with the 750 people culled from its 22,000 workforce allowing it to make quicker decisions in response to market volatility, chairman John Wilson says.  

And its transformation project would also build a less risk-averse culture, which could be a problem in such a big and complex organisation.  

“We’ve got to be far faster because markets are moving so rapidly,” he said after Fonterra’s annual results release.  “Sometimes you can be better at doing that with less people rather than more.” . . .

Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings gets big pay rise:

As Fonterra prepares to lay off 750 staff, the firm has disclosed that chief executive Theo Spierings received a pay rise of up to 18 per cent – taking his pay to almost $5 million in the last financial year.

The dairy giant’s latest financial statements show its top-paid employee earned between $4.93 million and $4.94 million in the year to July 31.

That’s up from $4.17 million to $4.18 million in the previous year. . . 

Lake water quality goes online:

Information on the water quality of lakes around the country will now be available online as part of an ongoing initiative between the Government, regional councils and the Tindall Foundation, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.

“Lakes are popular places for swimming and boating, and particularly with the summer months fast approaching, we want the many thousands of New Zealanders who visit them each year to have access to good, reliable information on the health of our lakes around the country. This is why lakes data is the next step for the LAWA website, which already provides data on our rivers and coastal waters,” Dr Smith says.

Dr Smith made today’s announcement with Local Government New Zealand regional sector group chair Stephen Woodhead. The new data on lakes will be live on the website from today. . . 

Agriculture to widen its reach into schools – Tim Cronshaw:

More agriculture exercises will be introduced in secondary school classrooms to encourage urban school leavers to take up careers in the primary industry.

A study programme for teachers to use agriculture examples in their lessons was launched in Christchurch on Tuesday with 15 secondary schools signing up for a pilot.

Accredited resources initially in science, English, mathematics and economics are expected to be delivered to teachers for the start of the new school year and will initially be for year 9 and 10 students. Over the next few years this will be phased in to NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 students and cover a range of curriculum areas based on school and teacher feedback. . . 

Scientists study the mysteries of cheese:

Makers of Roquefort and Camembert could benefit from a new genetic study of 14 fungal species found in cheeses, French researchers say.

But the study published in the journal Current Biology also raises questions about food safety due to the transfer of genes among Penicillium fungi, which are key to the making of soft cheeses.

“We were able to identify genes that are directly involved in the adaptation to cheese in Penicillium, opening the way for strain improvement, in particular for obtaining fast-growing strains,” said co-author Antoine Branca of L’Universite Paris-Sud. . . 


Rural round-up

September 9, 2015

Bright Foods tipped as Silver Fern bidder – Fran O’Sullivan:

Chinese Government backed Bright Food is understood to be the party which has been in negotiations with Silver Fern to take a stake in the NZ meat company.

Bright is a wholly Government-owned State Owned Enterprise.

But the negotiating vehicle is understood to one of Bright’s four listed subsidiaries. One of those subsidiaries – Bright Dairy & Food – took a majority stake in Canterbury milk processor Synlait Milk for $82 million in 2010.

Late last week speculation suggested the proposed deal would be announced today by Silver Fern Farms. . .

Waikato farmer wearing undies and gumboots chases burgler – Florence Kerr:

An attempted robbery was thwarted by an angry Waikato farmer who chased down the not-so-clever burglars wearing his undies and his gumboots.

Fed-up with continued thefts from his and neighbouring farms, Ohaupo farmer Arnold Reekers was forced into action in the early hours of Sunday morning when he heard his quad bike beeping as the thieves attempted to hot-wire the vehicle.

And despite having a knife pulled on him by the would-be thieves, Reekers wouldn’t hesitate to do it again saying continued thefts would drive farmers to take up arms despite pleas from the police for people not to take matters into their own hands.  . . 

Agility to drive value – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra chairman John Wilson has hit back at repeated criticism the huge co-operative has lost its way or not delivered on the promise it once held.

“I do sense the frustration of farmers with critics who come out of their holes when global milk prices are low,” he said ahead of the annual results release on September 24.

Wilson is one of three farmer-directors who retire by rotation this year to face the farmers’ vote in October. . .

New Zealand sheepmeat – maximising the cut:

Softer overseas demand for New Zealand sheepmeat – particularly out of China – which has curtailed New Zealand sheepmeat producers’ returns in recent months, has largely been driven by decline in demand for the forequarter portion of the carcase, says agribusiness specialist Rabobank in a recently-released report.

The report, New Zealand Sheepmeat: Maximising the Cut – Breaking It All Down, says it is important for producers to understand the breakdown of the animal and market demand for specific products as it ultimately determines the farmgate price. 

“While farmers are paid on a per head or per kilogramme basis, the price they receive is calculated from the summation of all the products derived from the animal – from the extensive array of cuts, to the offal, co-products, skin and wool,” says report author and animal protein analyst, Matthew Costello. . .

 

Foreign investment decisions could be fast-tracked – Brook Sabin:

The Government is considering speeding up foreign investment decisions, but Finance Minister Bill English is giving a cast-iron guarantee the rules won’t be watered down.

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) considers whether to approve high-value and sensitive land investments from overseas buyers. It then makes a recommendation to the Government, which ultimately decides whether the sale can proceed.

The most high-profile sale currently before the OIO is the 14,000ha Lochinver Station, which China’s Shanghai Pengxin wants to buy. The application has been held up for more than a year, but the Government is finally close to deciding whether it will go ahead. . .

Investment reduces AsureQuality profit:

AsureQuality posted a 9% drop in 2015 annual profit and expects a further decline in 2016 as the state-owned food safety company steps up investment for future growth.

Profit fell to $11.4 million in the 12 months ended June 30, from $12.5m a year earlier, the Auckland-based state-owned enterprise said in a statement posted on the Treasury website. It expects profit to decline further to $10.6m in 2016 before increasing to $12m in 2017, according to its 2015-2018 statement of corporate intent. . .

Organic farming is actually worse for climate change than conventional farming –  Deena Shanker:

Organic food is booming right now, as more and more people choose what they perceive to be healthier, more environmentally friendly food.

But a new study published in the June issue of Agriculture and Human Values suggests that organic farming, as it currently stands, is not as sustainable as it could be, and when done on a large scale, even produces more greenhouse gases (“GHGs” are heat-trapping compounds that contribute to climate change) than its conventional counterpart.

To determine the difference in emissions of organic agriculture versus conventional, University of Oregon researcher Julius McGee used state-level data, available through the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, that showed agricultural GHG emissions from 49 states from 2000 to 2008. . .  Hat tip: Utopia

Biofilms in the Dairy Industry:

Recent high-profile contamination scares within the international food industry have highlighted the need for best practice when it comes to dairy manufacturing. After 15 years of research into dairy biofilms, there is now a cornerstone publication for a better understanding of the current science, and ways to reduce the occurrence of biofilms associated with dairy manufacturing.

Biofilms in the Dairy Industry provides a comprehensive overview of biofilm-related issues currently facing the New Zealand and international dairy sector. . . 


Rural round-up

August 13, 2013

Engaging youth in agriculture – the key to a secure food future – Farming First:

Engaging youth in agriculture has been a prominent topic recently and has risen up the development agenda, as there is growing concern worldwide that young people have become disenchanted with agriculture.

With most young people – around 85%living in developing countries, where agriculture is likely to provide the main source of income it is vital that young people are connected with farming.

Currently around the world we’re living in an era where rapid urbanisation has led to a decline in rural populations and for the first time ever the majority of the world’s population lives in a city. The UN World Health Organization predicts that “by 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people” meaning that more young people than ever before are moving to cities and towns to find work, leaving few behind to work in rural areas. . .

Fonterra’s Group Director of Strategy to lead Recovery Management Team:

 Fonterra today announced that Maury Leyland, Group Director of Strategy, will lead its Recovery Management Team responsible for the ongoing operations of the precautionary recall and will oversee the operational review announced by the CEO last week.

Chief Executive, Theo Spierings, said, “Maury will manage all aspects of the recent recall and will oversee the operational review I announced last week. She will report directly to me on progress and findings. This will be an in-depth review covering our business processes, information and traceability systems, and current ways of working, including decision-making processes”, Mr Spierings said.

Ms Leyland said the operational review is separate to the one being conducted by the Board of Directors of Fonterra, but that the findings will be shared directly with them.

“Our initial investigations have given us a clear idea of the events that led to our precautionary recall, but we now need to establish a detailed understanding of the processes, systems and decisions involved. . .

 

China’s Bright Dairy looking better after Fonterra’s food safety stumble, Moody’s says – Paul McBeth:

China’s Bright Food Group, a cornerstone stake in local processor Synlait Milk, is likely to get a boost from Fonterra Cooperative Group’s food scare and might get a credit rating upgrade from Moody’s Investors Service.

Fonterra is the biggest milk powder supplier into China with about 60 percent market share, and last week’s food safety scare is seen as credit positive for Bright Food’s Baa3 credit rating with a stable outlook, Moody’s said in a statement. The New Zealand dairy exporter discovered bacteria that can cause botulism, which sparked a recall of potentially tainted food and prompted Chinese authorities to suspend imports of affected products.

“The incident is credit positive of Bright Food, which operates its dairy business through Bright Dairy & Food Co, a 65 percent Shanghai listed company and is one of China’s top three dairy producers by revenue,” Moody’s senior analyst Alan Gao said. . .

PGG Wrightson take $321M charge on goodwill, operating earnings drop on drought:

PGG Wrightson, the rural services company controlled by China’s Agria Corp, took a $321 million charge to write off goodwill from its 2005 merger while posting a decline in operating earnings in line with guidance on the effects of this year’s drought.
The net loss was $306.5 million in the 12 months ended June 30, from a profit of $24.5 million a year earlier, the Christchurch-based company said in a statement. Sales fell 15 percent to $1.13 billion. Stripping out the impairment, net profit would have been $14.6 million, missing First NZ Capital expectations for net earnings of $19.4 million. . .

‘Broccoli lady’ honoured for kumara work – Tennessee Mansford:

A Kiwi woman’s just been named Australasia’s marketer of the year for her work to promote the humble kumara.

And it’s not the first time American-born Lisa Cork has made headlines with her vegetable antics. Twenty years ago she sent 10 tonnes of broccoli to US President George Bush.

It was labelled broccoli-gate or the broccoli brouhaha, and it all stemmed from one statement by then US President George Bush, Sr in 1990. . . .

Giesen The Brothers Pinot Noir 2011 wins top trophy:

Growing recognition of the calibre of Marlborough Pinot Noir has been highlighted with Giesen The Brothers Pinot Noir 2011 winning top accolades at the 2013 Spiegelau International Wine awards dinner in Auckland on the weekend.

Produced from the sought after Wairau Valley in Marlborough, The Brothers Pinot Noir 2011 won gold and then went on to win the overall trophy for Singapore Airlines Champion Pinot Noir.

Marcel Giesen said Giesen Wines is now focusing considerable attention on Pinot Noir, having planted their first 100% organic Pinot Noir vineyard only three years ago. . .


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