Rural round-up

April 1, 2020

Hope from the high country – Philip Todhunter:

Covid-19? It’s like opening your front door and finding two metres of snow on the ground just after you’d put all your new fencing in.

The fences have been wrecked. You look at the damage, you shake your head, and then you get on with managing your way through it.

In the back of your mind, you know that spring will come, the tonnes of snow will melt, and the grass will grow again.

Farmers are an optimistic bunch. We’re used to things going in cycles: weather patterns, commodity prices, market demand … but we also know that sometimes the wheel doesn’t turn the whole way round, sometimes the change is permanent. . . 

Coronavirus: can the economy recover – Andrea Vance and Iain McGregor:

The economic ride down is likely to be sharp and steep. But when consumers eventually emerge from lockdown, what will the recovery look like? Andrea Vance and Iain McGregor investigate.

Weighing sheep in a yard in the brown foothills of North Canterbury’s Hundalee Hills, Ben Ensor is an unlikely soldier on the frontline of New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As the country prepared to shut down, to stop the spread of coronavirus, the sheep and beef farmer was separating merino stock under the shadow of rustic woolshed. Hooves beat up clouds of dust, as his farm dog herded them into a race.

With 6000 sheep, and around 500 cattle, Ensor can’t close down. Like nurses, doctors, pharmacists and supermarket staff, farming and cropping have been deemed “essential“. . .

Kiwifruit taste test goes south :

Kiwifruit growers will not be paid for their fruit’s taste profile this season after the country’s only testing facility dropped the test.

Eurofins Bay of Plenty is the country’s only testing facility for the drymatter component of kiwifruit, which gives growers and Zespri a direct indication of the fruit’s taste profile.  

The lab now tests only for residues in fruit, leaving post-harvest processors grappling with how to evaluate fruit quality. . .

Keep calm, carry on – Colin Williscroft:

The Government is well aware of farming’s importance and is doing everything it can to ensure the primary sector continues to operate as close to normal as possible, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

“Farming has been the backbone of New Zealand and that will that continue long into the future,” O’Connor says.

Cabinet understands the role farming plays in the economy, along with the need to maintain farming systems subject to seasonal and biological cycles, including the lifecycle of animals and grass growth, restrictions other businesses around the country are not subject to. . .

Meat industry in better shape today to cope with downturn – Allan Barber:

When I started to trawl through possible topics to write about this week, I had the bright idea it might be worth asking meat processors what contingency plans they have in place in case an employee, more particularly one on the processing floor, tests positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus. So far my research suggests it’s not yet an issue that has received a great deal of consideration by many companies, although it’s certainly on their radar.

In an update to farmers, Silver Fern Farms states its position as “The reality is that an outbreak, or the understandable precautionary response of our people, is likely to see an impact on our processing capacity in coming weeks. It is realistic to expect that with a workforce of 7000 we will at least have precautionary isolation within our workforce. We have processes in place to ensure that, should this occur, it can be managed. We are working on the various contingent options and will keep you updated should there be any disruption to processing.” . . 

Coronavirus: George Eustice applauds farmers as ‘hidden heroes’ :

Defra Secretary George Eustice has labelled farmers ‘hidden heroes’ for keeping food on the nation’s plates during the Covid-19 crisis.

In an open letter to the food and farming industry, Mr Eustice paid tribute to ‘all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed.’

The statement described farmers’ response so far as ‘extraordinary’ and thanked those involved in food production on behalf of the country.

“In the face of what is perhaps the greatest health challenge this country has faced in our lifetime, I want to pay tribute to all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed,” he said. . .  

 


Rural round-up

November 18, 2014

Aussies eye fairer fight with NZ dairying  – Matthew Cranston & Tim Binsted:

As an exporter of 40,000 litres of milk to China a year, Lemontree Dairy has had to wait 11 years for the same treatment in China as New Zealand dairies.

“We have been fighting with one hand behind our back for years now with New Zealand but with this free trade agreement being equal to New Zealand will make the fight fairer,” said director James McNamee.

“It’s about time they got it over the line.”

Australia’s free trade agreement with China is set to provide A$630 million in savings from 2016 to 2025 as the tariffs are wound back, according to Australian Dairy Industry Council. . .

Black market for messy mutton  – Tracey Chatterton:

Sheep carcasses are being dumped on Hastings streets as thieves continue to target livestock.

Meat continues to be sold on the black market despite suspects having already been arrested in recent months, Flaxmere community constable Greg Andrew said.

Ratepayers were footing the bill for the mess sheep rustlers were making.

Hastings District Council contractors collected and cleaned up the dumped carcasses and offal at a cost of between $100 and $300 per carcass. . .

Milk price variability – what it means for dairy farm businesses  – Grant Rowan:

It may not appear to be, but the milk price is trending upwards.

It is also becoming more and more volatile, with the past 18 months a good case in point. In May 2013 global Whole Milk Powder (WMP) prices peaked at US$5600/tonne. The average WMP price at Fonterra’s most recent Global Dairy Trade auction was US$2522/tonne.

The question for anyone interested in the health of NZ’s biggest export industry is how are dairy farmers faring?

This edition of Farm Investment Insight explores milk price variability and the tools farmers can use to generate operating profits in times of negative price shocks. . . .

Is Our Food Safety System as Strong as We Think. Private Sector vs Public Sector – Milking on the Moove:

Is our food safety system as robust as we think it is? And are we better served by the public or private sector?

Last week I blogged about my issues getting the mobile cowshed evaluated by inspectors.

The way the food safety system works, is the government agency via The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) set the food standards. When a company sets up a food business, the verification services are provided by the private sector.

In New Zealand we have AsureQuality, which is a state owned enterprise, but it operates as a for profit business. There seems to be only two other providers, Eurofins & SGS in NZ who can offer dairy evaluation services. . .

Cut fees for Ag degrees:

GETTING YOUNG people into agribusiness is critical for New Zealand’s future, says ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie.

 He told the recent Zespri conference that he is concerned to see the right people enter the agri sector in the numbers required. For example, the kiwifruit industry will soon be producing 30 million more trays of product and will need more people to cope with that trend.

Bagrie is convinced that most young people do not understand the long term future they could enjoy in some primary industries. . .

$18mln payday for Rural Women NZ in sale to Green Cross Health – Jonathan Underhill:

Green Cross Health has agreed to pay around $18 million for Access Homehealth, a not-for-profit home healthcare services company owned by a grass-roots charitable organisation, Rural Women New Zealand, which will gain representation on the Green Cross board as part of the deal.

The purchase will add to earnings immediately, said Green Cross, formerly known as PharmacyBrands and the owner of the Life Pharmacy and Unichem pharmacy chains. Access has annual sales of about $85 million and employs about 4,000 people, the Auckland-based company said.

The purchase price, which includes assumed debt, will be funded from existing cash and bank funding, Green Cross said. . .

 Grow your own with a hand from Ballance science:

With cashflows tight on dairy farms, pasture comes out on top as the cheapest feed source and getting the best grass for the least cost can be achieved with a hand from science.

Ballance Science Manager, Aaron Stafford says the “grow your own” approach of using nitrogen fertiliser to boost pasture growth provides the most cost-effective supplementary feed, but with cash-strapped farmers working within very tight budgets, they want to be confident of a good pasture response to money spent on nitrogen.

“There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a poor or variable pasture response nitrogen fertiliser to boost feed availability. We can help farmers get the best results by enabling them to tailor application rates to areas which are likely to produce the highest pasture response.” . . .


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