Rural round-up

January 24, 2014

Promise of plenty – Nigel Stirling:

This year has the potential to be a vintage one for breaking down barriers to New Zealand’s agricultural trade with the rest of the world.

But don’t break out the champagne just yet.

It is a fine line between success and failure in trade negotiations, which have a habit of falling at the last hurdle. . .

Dam directors keep the faith – Tim Fulton:

The 6.2 magnitude earthquake near Eketahuna had Tim Fulton asking what quakes mean for dams like Ruataniwha in Hawke’s Bay.

The Ruataniwha dam will be strong enough to withstand a large earthquake, project manager Graeme Hansen says.

The planning team had done quake investigations to death, he said.

The Mohaka fault goes through the water-storage scheme’s proposed reservoir area.

“It’s certainly been a bone of contention, or should I say a topic of conversation, around building a water-storage structure on or near a major fault,” Hansen said. . .

Dairying boost tipped for economy – Christopher Adams:

Economists say a combination of rising international dairy prices and favourable farming conditions bode well for New Zealand’s economic growth, which is already expected to outpace most other developed nations this year.

Dairy product prices in Tuesday night’s GlobalDairyTrade auction rose 1.4 per cent from the last sale on January 8, led by surging prices for butter and cheese. Those two products have posed problems for Fonterra as their prices lagged behind whole milk powder.

The average winning price was US$5025 ($6040) a tonne from US$4953 a tonne at the last auction. About 41,024 tonnes of product was sold, down from 46,418 two weeks ago, for about US$206.1 million. . .

Manuka authentication project:

An organisation representing most of the country’s manuka honey producers says it’s got the backing of a major overseas customer for a project authenticating the highly-prized honey.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has begun working on a new guideline for New Zealand’s most valuable honey, after concerns were raised in some overseas markets about false claims and labelling for manuka, which commands top prices for its anti-bacterial and healing qualities.

Meanwhile, the Unique Manuka Factor or Honey Association is collecting samples from around the country to establish a chemical profile of manuka. . .

Looking forward to 2014 – Kirsten Bryant;

There’s been plenty to keep us occupied on the farm over January, so it’s been very much a case of head down. But, out the corner of my eye, I optimistically note that we’ve had great grass growth and improved stock performance.

Year to date, my impression is that, while we don’t have the certainty of price that dairy farmers enjoy, sheep and beef farmers are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. It’s amazing the effect available feed and forecast rain have on the soul and, consequently, our outlooks. It feels good.

This week, I had the privilege of listening to the inspirational Kevin Biggar – one half of TVNZ’s First Crossings’ duo. Kevin was speaking about his journey from self-admitted couch potato, to Trans-Atlantic rower and South Pole adventurer. . .

Rabbits threatens our gin and tonic: Wild animals are overgrazing on juniper berries:

Wild rabbits are threatening the traditional British gin and tonic by over-grazing on juniper berries – a key ingredient of the drink.

The animals have eaten so many plants that experts fear the juniper could be wiped out in parts of the country.

Now a gin manufacturer has donated £1,000 to Steyning Downland Scheme, a charity working to save the ancient plant which is also under threat from disease.

It will use the money from No.3 London Dry Gin to put up fences around the few remaining junipers near Lancing, West Sussex.

It is hoped the barriers will keep the rabbits out and protect the juniper, which gives gin its distinctive bitter taste. . .


Rural round-up

August 11, 2013

Formula firms see orders cancelled – Christopher Adams:

Kiwi baby formula companies are having orders cancelled in China and contract negotiations with Chinese customers terminated as a result of Fonterra’s botulism contamination crisis, says an industry group.

Chris Claridge, chief administration officer of the New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association, said $40 million worth of the group’s products were immediately at risk.

“That’s product at the ports, on the ship and being manufactured,” Claridge said. “We’re seeing serious commercial issues arising.”

The association represents around 15 local baby milk exporters, none of whom used the 38 tonnes of potentially contaminated Fonterra whey protein in the making of their products. . .

Fonterra farmers keep the faith:

A week on from the revelation of contaminated Fonterra product, farmers “hang on” with confidence in their dairy co-operative.

As the list of questions about the company’s risk management strategies and public relations nous mounts, suppliers remain in support, but expect answers.

The media hype and sensationalism had likely done greater damage and posed a greater threat to the industry than one contaminated pipe, South Canterbury dairy farmer Ryan O’Sullivan suggested. . .

MPI removes illegal kiwifruit plants:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is today starting to remove and safely dispose of a small backyard kiwifruit orchard in an Auckland suburb that appears to have been grown from seed imported illegally.

MPI Manager Response Katherine Clift says the Ministry has been informed that the seeds were brought into New Zealand with a container of household goods when the owner moved to New Zealand in 1997. They were not declared and subsequently not detected at the border.

Dr Clift says testing of plant material from the property carried out by MPI ruled out the presence of any serious disease-causing viruses, bacteria or fungi, including Psa and MPI assessed the plants presented a low risk to the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.

“In addition, the plants are at a location geographically removed from key kiwifruit growing areas and the owner has stated that no plant material has been moved from the property.” . . .

Otago paramedic wins RWNZ/Acces scholarship:

Annabel Taylor is no stranger to rural medical emergencies and farm accidents, and now she’ll be even better equipped to deal with them, thanks to winning this year’s $3,000 Rural Women NZ/Access Scholarship.

As a St John paramedic based in Taieri, Annabel works for both the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter and the Dunedin ambulance service, responding to calls for help from the rural community.

The scholarship will help cover Annabel’s expenses as she studies for a year-long Postgraduate Certificate in Speciality Care, Advanced Paramedic Practice at Whitireia Polytechnic in Porirua, near Wellington.  The course includes distance learning and she’ll also be flying to Wellington six times a year for block courses. . .

Family feud nets $1.8m for farmer – Michael Field:

A small-town law firm has been ordered to pay $1.8 million compensation to a Waikato farmer after a family feud over the sale of his property.

Farmer Ross Blackwell, of Arohena, south of Te Awamutu, decided to sell his farm to his neighbour since he didn’t want his brothers to inherit it because of the way they had treated his wife, the High Court heard.

But the deal he made with neighbours Leith and Rosemary Chick meant they could buy the farm at less than half market value.

Blackwell’s brothers took the sale to court, throwing doubts on his intellectual ability after he suffered a brain tumour and strokes, and saying they were stunned the farm was being sold out of the family. . .

The New York analyst, the farm station and the advisory board – David Williams:

Back in the day it was unfashionable.

Anders Crofoot moved his family to New Zealand from New York 15 years ago to farm Castlepoint Station, in the Wairarapa, and immediately created an advisory board.

It’s not that that sort of thing wasn’t being done, he says, more that they were doing it because they wanted to – not because the bank told them to.

As reported in Friday’s National Business Review print edition, the country’s large, complex farms are more frequently appointing boards to oversee their governance as the agricultural sector grapples with high debt and the need for external capital. . .

Famous Five quins one in a million – Alison Harley:

Marlborough’s Waihopai Valley is the location of New Zealand’s spy base, but this week it has gained recognition for a completely different reason.

It has now become home to the “famous five” after a ewe on one station delivered more lambs than anyone expected.

Farmer Kelly Burmaz says it is not the first multiple birth for the mother.

“In the last four years she’s had four lambs each year,” says Mr Burmaz.

“This time she’s poked out five.” . . .

 


Rural round-up

April 24, 2013

Drought breaking rain sparks race to prepare for winter:

Farmers are rejoicing that the drought breaking rain finally arrived, but hope winter can hold off for a few more weeks to maximise pasture growth and better insure their feed supplies until spring.

“We have heard from nearly all our provincial presidents that the rain has broken the drought in their areas and that grass is growing again,” Federated Farmers adverse events spokesperson Katie Milne says.

“Some areas had a bit too much rain, while others are still a bit dry, but overall the rain brought by last weekend’s subtropical trough was exactly what was needed, with grass growth returning to many areas. . .

Drought status likely to remain until September:

Recent rainfall has been welcomed by farmers but the problems created by the dry summer will be felt for some time, says Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy.

“The dry conditions may have ended in many parts of the country but there are still major challenges ahead. It will take time to build up enough grass cover to provide feed for winter.

“There’s no doubt the rain over the last week has been a real boost, especially for those in areas that have missed out before like the central North Island. . .

Prime Minister Attends Blessing for New Fonterra Plant:

Construction of Fonterra’s new $126 million UHT milk processing plant in Waitoa today took another step forward with the site’s blessing attended by Prime Minister John Key.

Fonterra’s Chief Executive Theo Spierings said the plant, which will be running from April 2014, will enable Fonterra to increase UHT production by 100 per cent over the next few years.

“The five new UHT lines will produce a range of products including UHT white milk and UHT cream for the foodservice sector, which is a part of our business that generates more than $1 billion in sales a year and this plant will allow us to meet the growing demand in Asia for these products,” said Mr Spierings. . .

New A2 formula ready for China – Christopher Adams:

NZX-listed alternative milk company A2 Corporation says the first consignment of its new infant formula brand will be shipped to the lucrative Chinese market next month, followed by distribution in New Zealand and Australian supermarkets soon after.

The company has appointed the China State Farms Holding Company Shanghai, a subsidiary of state-owned China National Agriculture Development Group Corp, as the exclusive Chinese distributor of its Platinum formula brand.

The formula will initially be sold in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Chongqing before sales are progressively expanded to other major cities in mainland China, as well as Hong Kong and Macau, A2 says. . .

Outdoor workers shun sun protection– Tamara McLean:

The sun protection slogan Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap is being dangerously ignored by two thirds of Kiwis working in the great outdoors, with farmers and builders among the worst culprits.

A University of Otago study of more than 1000 workers across nine outdoor occupations has revealed that sun smart messages are not getting through to those who spend their lives working outside.

Just one in three outdoor workers wear sunblock or a suitably protective hat while at work, despite being more at risk of sun damage than other people. . .

Last of founding vineyard empire goes on the market for sale:

A large landholding of what was once the family-owned and operated Nobilo wine empire west of Auckland has been placed on the market for sale.
The 7.49 hectare property bordering the township of Kumeu was once planted in white and red grapes, and was part of the huge landholding created by New Zealand wine legend Nikola ‘Nick’ Nobilo.

Nick Nobilo was born in Croatia and emigrated to New Zealand with his family in 1937 to settle in Kumeu. Nobilo came from a winemaking family which had been producing vintages for some 300 years. . .

Locally bred Habibi sold after winning 6th consecutive race:

New Zealand Derby winner Habibi has been sold to a United States buyer.

A winner of six of her nine races, Habibi was sold to Pennsylvania buyer George Strawbridge after finishing fourth in unsuitably heavy conditions in the Australian Oaks at Randwick last Saturday.

Her owner-breeders Peter and Heather Crofskey will keep a minority share in the filly for the rest of her racing career. . .

Gibbston Valley mountain bike resort soft opening:

Queenstown’s new Rabbit Ridge Bike Resort will have a ‘soft’ opening on April 27 with riding available on some of the newly constructed trails. Rider numbers are limited to invitation only to reduce traffic and enable trails to bed in.

Invited local bikers, bike shop owners and front line staff will get to try out the new trails for the first time this weekend (April 27/28) at the new bike ‘playground’ on 400 hectares of land adjacent to Queenstown’s award-winning Gibbston Valley Winery.

Locals eagerly anticipating the opening of the new resort will then be able to ride the trails on Free Locals Days scheduled for the first Saturday of every month, starting May 4. . .


Rural round-up

April 18, 2013

Rationalisation of water services supported:

Rationalising water services and placing them at arms-length from local political control, as recommended in a new report is supported by industry body Water New Zealand.

However, the real concern Water New Zealand has is whether the reforms proposed by the expert group looking at local government infrastructure will be implemented (expert’s report released today).

“The need for reform has been known for a long time, but to date little progress has been made,” Water New Zealand’s Chief Executive, Murray Gibb said.

“Ratepayers and taxpayers will get improved services and better value for their money if the reforms are implemented. The proposals accord with industry best practice and should be supported,” he said.

Two other recommendations supported by Water New Zealand, are;
1. that a minister with responsibilities for management of all water related issues is appointed, and,
2. where economically justified, metering and volumetric charging for water are implemented. . .

Praise for NZ’s Tb programme:

A senior UK minister has praised New Zealand for its work in controlling bovine tuberculosis (Tb) during a fact-finding visit over the weekend.

Owen Paterson, UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said he had enormous admiration for what had been achieved by the TBfree New Zealand programme.

“You are still a society that is much more closely tied to the land and you have had this spectacular success freeing up your agricultural industry,” Paterson said.

“People understand the importance of agricultural production and food production and there are all sorts of lessons to be learned from what you have done.” . .

NZX to target agricultural firms – Christopher Adams:

Boosting the number of listed agricultural firms is one of the NZX’s main priorities and there are about 20 firms in the Waikato alone that could potentially float on the local bourse, says exchange chief executive Tim Bennett.

While agriculture is New Zealand’s largest sector, earning about half the country’s export income, it is under-represented on the sharemarket compared with other industries such as retail and manufacturing.

Bennett said he saw the lack of listed agricultural companies as a problem and an opportunity.

“As a country that’s got a significant export presence in agriculture, we clearly need to provide capital to that sector and at the moment there’s a relatively small number of companies involved in the agricultural sector on the NZX,” Bennett said. . .

Miraka – it’s Maori for milk:

Given the attention that focuses on Fonterra’s every move, it can seem that the huge co-op and the dairy industry are one and the same thing. But despite its dominance, a band of smaller players is surviving – and sometimes thriving – in the giant’s shadow.

One of the newest is a tiny, Maori-controlled dairy company which kicked off late in 2011, quickly turned a profit and already has a waiting list of potential suppliers after just two seasons.

The company, Miraka, runs a wholemilk factory at Mokai, 30km northwest of Taupo, that is already “full” – meaning it can’t take on any more suppliers. The fact that there is a waiting list is hardly surprising, given that it pays 10c per kg over the going rate at Fonterra.

And, unlike the co-operative model, Miraka does not require its suppliers to hold shares. . .

NZ Processing for China win-win – Tim Fulton:

Favourable signals from China’s elite could be just what New Zealand needs to expand its forestry portfolio, a member of the latest trade delegation to that country says. Tim Fulton reports.

Peter Clark, from PF Olsen, has come home from a week-long trip to China convinced New Zealand is moving closer to a stronger domestic milling industry.

NZ has proven its ability to use “rain, soil, sunshine and nitrogen” to turn seeds into logs for export, but the Rotorua-based chief executive wonders whether the timing is right to do more advanced processing at home. . .

Preparing new staff for the season ahead:

DairyNZ is reminding dairy farmers to prepare for new employees as the new season nears.

DairyNZ people team leader, Jane Muir, says people management practices have improved greatly on-farm in recent years, but there are always opportunities to do things better.

“The recent Federated Farmers/Rabobank Farm Employee Remuneration Survey showed 91 percent of dairy farmers provided permanent employees with written contracts – a sharp increase on previous years,” says Jane.

“This is great news because one of the areas where big wins can be achieved is around the staff recruitment and orientation process – the contract is just one part of that. . .

Rural Bachelor is back and this year there’s an international flavour:

The NZ National Agricultural Fieldays is on the look out for hard working rural blokes to represent the farming community  and are calling for entries across the country to the Trans Tasman. This year the competition will consist of eight finalists (six Kiwis and two Australians) who will be flown to a mystery location on Monday 10th June prior to Fieldays, each of the finalists will then make their way to Fieldays, stopping in specific towns along the way to complete various tasks.

The finalists will be judged on a range of aspects from technical skills, innovation, effort to enthusiasm and crowd involvement. They will also participate in heats throughout Fieldays and be judged on their interaction with Fieldays staff and volunteers, their team spirit, helpfulness, conduct and attitude in relation to Fieldays values. . .


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