The New Zealand economy, although battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, has moved into 2021 in better shape than anyone might have predicted just six months ago.
To a degree this has been due to the continuing vibrant performance in the export sector particularly by the primary industries. This week there was a fresh surge of confidence within that sector because of the signal from the big dairy co-op, Fonterra, in lifting its milk payout forecast.
Fonterra now expects to pay farmers between $6.90-$7.50kg/MS. That is up 20c a kg from its previous forecast range of $6.70 -$7.30. . .
Dairy markets have hit a sweet spot but big challenges remain – Keith Woodford:
Global dairy markets continue to grow despite negative sentiment in some quarters. The Climate Change Commission expects less cows to be balanced by more milk per cow. Man-made ‘udder factories’ are yet to emerge.
The combined effect of the three latest global dairy auctions has been that US-dollar prices for dairy have risen eleven percent since Christmas. A farmgate payment above $NZ7 for each kg of milksolids (MS) of fat plus protein for the dairy year ending in May 2021 now looks close to ‘baked in’.
This means that for a second year, farmgate prices will exceed $7. This will be the first time that prices have stayed above $7 per kgMS for two consecutive years.
It will also mean that five years have passed since the two bad years of 2015 and 2016. The bad years were largely driven by EU internal quota removals and a consequent surge in EU production. . .
Farmer confidence has bounced back to where it was pre-Covid19 but attracting and retaining staff remains a headache, the latest Federated Farmers Farm Confidence Survey shows.
Of the nearly 1,100 farmers who completed the Research First survey in the second week of January, a net 5.5% considered current economic conditions to be good. That’s a 34-point jump from the July 2020 survey when a net 28.6% considered them bad, marking the lowest level of farmer confidence in the 12 years the six-monthly survey had been conducted.
“Looking ahead, a net 43.8% expect general economic conditions to worsen over the next 12 months. That sound a bit grim, but just six months ago 58.7% of survey respondents expected a deteriorating economy,” Federated Farmers President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.
“I think farmers, like other New Zealanders, are feeling buoyed by the way we’ve handled the pandemic despite the torpedo to international tourism. The agricultural sector is willing and able to maintain production so long as regulatory and other stumbling blocks don’t trip us up.” . .
A new study* has found a strong ‘can do’ attitude and cooperative spirit in the agricultural industries were significant factors in minimising losses and uncertainties during the COVID restrictions last year in New Zealand and Australia.
Co-authored by Lincoln University’s Dr Lei Cong, with contributors from a number of institutions including AgResearch, The University of Queensland, NZ Institute of Economic Research, and Plant and Food Research, it measures the immediate impacts of COVID-19 control measures to June 2020 on the agri-food systems of Australia and New Zealand and how resilient those systems were.
It found the effects on both countries were broadly similar, and there were relatively minor economic impacts across the surveyed industries.
It stated the high level of ingenuity in the rural communities, both in Australia and New Zealand, was likely a key element of their resilience and capacity to overcome movement restrictions and the disruption of value chains. . .
Kiwi conservationists count wins in war on wallabies – Nita Blake-Persen:
Pest control experts say they are finally starting to make a dent in New Zealand’s exploding wallaby population, as a battle to stop them destroying native forests rages on.
Checkpoint cameraman Nick Monro and reporter Nita Blake-Persen headed out on a hunt to see how it’s all going.
The government last year allocated $27 million towards culling wallabies as part of its Job for Nature programme.
Among those to receive funding is Dr Tim Day, a pest control expert working in the Bay of Plenty.
Wallaby numbers have been growing in the area in recent times, and Day described them as a “little known villain”. . .
It may sound like something out of a futuristic science fiction film, but scientists have managed to engineer spinach plants which are capable of sending emails.
Through nanotechnology, engineers at MIT in the US have transformed spinach into sensors capable of detecting explosive materials. These plants are then able to wirelessly relay this information back to the scientists.
When the spinach roots detect the presence of nitroaromatics in groundwater, a compound often found in explosives like landmines, the carbon nanotubes within the plant leaves emit a signal. This signal is then read by an infrared camera, sending an email alert to the scientists. . .