Rural round-up

July 17, 2017

Susatainability key to role as new AgResearch leader – Sally Rae:

The big thrust for AgResearch in the future has to be around farm and environmental sustainability issues, new chairman Jeff Grant says.

His focus would be continuing to build on AgResearch’s ability to deliver science that was “highly relevant” to the future of farming.

Regional council changes, in a bid to get better outcomes around land and water, would force AgResearch to provide the science to ‘‘get the answers’’ and the tools for farmers.

“I see the organisation as being the lead provider of answers that allow farmers to meet the expectations for producing high quality food in natural and sustainable environments, while also being able to run a viable business. . .

Cattle grazing on river edges keeps weed ‘shambles’ down on extensive farms – Bob Todhunter:

With alI the bad publicity our rivers are receiving I feel the general public is confused between extensive and intensive grazing.

I would like to make some observations about stock grazing alongside waterways. I am no scientist, however I do have 70-plus years of practical observation.

I remember being taught fishing by my grandfather in the 1950s on the rivers of the Canterbury Plains when sheep and cattle were grazed extensively by the riverbeds. . .

Pine tree seedlings in short supply after poor growing season  – Jill Galloway:

A shortage of pine tree seedlings after a poor growing season for tree nurseries has hit some forest owners and farm foresters.

Patrick Murray ,who is owner of Murray’s Nurseries at Woodville in Tararua, said he had turned down orders of 1.2 million pines.

“We grew around five million pinus radiata but could easily have sold more. It has been a wet summer and poor autumn and that affected badly the growth of the trees.” . . 

EU farmer subsidies under threat – Nigel Stirling:

There are signs that the massive subsidisation of European agriculture could be cut back.

New Zealand has long fought the policy, which tops up the incomes of millions of European farmers.

For decades, NZ has argued the policy keeps European production higher than justified by market prices, and supply on global markets out of kilter with demand. . .

Alliance looks to food service growth – Alan Williams:

Alliance Group hopes that its new food service business will be achieving annual sales above $100 million in the next three years or so.

A four-strong development team is working up a pilot programme in the United Kingdom that the meat exporter will use as a springboard for wider Europe, and into Asian markets as well, general manager sales Murray Brown said.

“Who knows how it could go – we’re a $1.5 billion business and if we could get the food service up to 10% of total sales over three years that would be $100m to $150m.” . .

Nitrate data suggests a corner turned – Nicole Sharp:

Environment Southland’s latest water quality report shows a trend of decreasing or indeterminate nitrogen levels and Southland farmers deserve a pat on the back for this, Agribusiness farm consultant Deane Carson says.

Nitrate levels in Southland had always been an area of significant concern for him, and for a while were somewhat out of control, he said.

But the latest report showed the majority of the sites were indeterminate for nitrite­nitrate nitrogen (NNN) levels over the five years covered and nine of the 49 sites had a decreasing trend. . .

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Gibraltar tensions

April 6, 2017

An Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar in 1704 during the War of Spanish Succession and  Spain ceded it to Great Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

It’s still a British Overseas Territory on Spain’s south coast dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, a 426m-high limestone ridge.

That rock can be seen easily from a good distance away an ever-present reminder to Spain of  Britain’s possession of the territory.

Gibraltar is only 6.7 km2   in area but is strategically placed. In World War II it provided a base from which the Royal Navy controlled exit and entry to the Mediterranean Sea and half the world’s seaborne trade passes through the strait today.

Tensions over Gibraltar have risen again now the European Union offered Spain a right of veto over the future relationship between Gibraltar and the EU after Brexit.

A significant majority of the 32,000 people who live in the territory have repeatedly voted overwhelmingly both for their own autonomy and to reject any sharing of sovereignty with Spain. But that doesn’t stop Spain’s ambition to reclaim the territory.

Spain may very well return to the days when it effectively embargoed Gibraltar, denying easy access to tourists and forcing residents to rely on air links to Great Britain to run their economy. The bureaucrats in Brussels frankly may also cheer on Spain’s punishment of the population and economy of Gibraltar as a means to signal its annoyance with Great Britain for turning its back on the European experiment.

Spain, however, is playing with fire and risks creating a precedent which will burn it several times over. Here’s the problem:

While Spain might object to Great Britain maintaining sovereignty over a 2.6 square mile territory which Madrid sees as its own, Spain has its own enclaves on the Mediterranean carved out of what should be, but for historical accidents of centuries past, sovereign Moroccan territory.

Ceuta is only seven square miles. In 1415, the Portuguese captured Ceuta and, during the next century when Portugal and Spain briefly united, Spaniards flocked to the city. The 1668 Treaty of Lisbon formally ceded Ceuta to Spain to whom it has belonged ever since. Spain, along with France, was a colonial power in Morocco but, in 1956 when Spain withdrew from northern Morocco (it would leave the Western Saharan in 1975), it continued to hold Ceuta.

Melilla, only 4.7 square miles, has a similar history. Spain conquered the city in 1497 and rebuffed subsequent Moroccan political and diplomatic efforts to win it back. Spain may consider it an autonomous territory but, it reality, it is a colonial outpost and an accident of history.

Spain may seek advantage from Brexit going forward in order to reclaim Gibraltar; that’s Madrid’s prerogative. However, so long as Spain continues to hold Ceuta and Melilla, instead of allowing an extension of Moroccan sovereignty, then Spain and the European Union’s case will be both hypocritical and weak.

Our first visit to Gibraltar was prompted by a desire to watch the touring Lions play Otago in 2005. We were living in Vejer de la Frontera, a village in Andalusia on the Costa de la Luz, where the locals favour football and we thought  Gibraltar would be the nearest place where people would be watching rugby.

It’s connected to Spain by a narrow isthmus on which Gibraltar airport is built.

We followed the advice of locals that it’s easier to enter the territory than face the queues when driving and once through customs and immigration we walked across the tarmac to the town.

Our first impressions weren’t positive.

The town was full of high-rise apartments that looked like they’d been designed in England with no appreciation of the Mediterranean climate.

However, the locals were friendly and we had no trouble finding a pub that would be showing the rugby next morning. The locals became friendlier still when the Lions won.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the rock, meeting the Barbary Macaques and learning about the military history including the WW II tunnels.

 

Legend has it that Britain will lose control of the territory if the apes die out. This was the seed from which Paul Gallico wrote his book Scruffy.

Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven includes a more realistic and harrowing story of war in Gibraltar.

 

 

 


Disunited Kingdom

June 25, 2016

The United Kingdom is a disunited kingdom.

The UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union but two of the four countries which comprise it did not.

England and Wales voted to go, Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay.

This could prompt another move for Scottish independence and possibly a push to reunite Ireland.

The decision already has its casualties.

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced he’ll stand down, saying he thought the ocuntry need fresh leadership and couldn’t captain the ship to its next destination,

Reports that Morgan Stanley would move 2000 jobs to Dublin of Frankfurt were later denied but both the pound and euro fell after the referendum result was announced.

The pound dropped below the crucial $1.40 mark amid fears that the UK would vote to leave the European Union. Sterling fell as much as 10% early on Friday, and is on track for its worst one-day fall in history. After trading at $1.3262, down nearly 9%, as of 5.27am BST, the currency recovered slightly to 1.3394 as of 6.05am BST.

The euro fell the most since it was introduced in 1999 while other currencies in Europe also took a hit, Bloomberg reported. . . 

The wheels of politics and bureaucracy grind very slowly so there will be no immediate changes but Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor sent an email to farmers saying:

  • The EU and UK are New Zealand’s most valuable sheepmeat markets and Brexit could have significant implications.
  • It is unclear right now exactly how this will play out as Prime Minister Cameron has not confirmed that he will act upon the results. There are three key issues we are focused on at present:
    • Ensuring that we maintain our overall quota access into the EU and UK as the UK renegotiates its access into the EU. This will take some time and we will be able to work with the NZ government and EU/UK governments to understand the process and ensure the best possible outcome for NZ sheep and beef farmers;
    • Understanding the impact of Brexit on the sheep and beef markets in the UK and EU. The EU currently takes 90 percent of the UK’s sheepmeat exports.
    • Other indirect impacts could be appreciation of the NZD against the EU and UK.

NZ quota access into the EU & UK

  • New Zealand currently has a quota of just under 228,000 tonnes of sheepmeat into the EU at zero duties. This represents over half of New Zealand’s total global sheepmeat exports. The UK currently takes half of our exports to the EU by value.
  • New Zealand also has a smaller quota of 1,300 tonnes of beef into the EU at an in-quota duty of 20%.
  • As the UK negotiates its exit from the EU over the next couple of years it will be negotiating how much of these quotas will be transferred solely to them and on what terms.
  • Under WTO rules, New Zealand’s overall levels of access to both the EU and UK will have to remain the same, but we will lose the flexibility to decide which of the two entities to send our exports to depending on demand from customers.

Potential impact on EU and UK Markets

  • There will also likely be disruption on UK and EU markets.
  • The UK exported 90 percent of its sheepmeat exports to the EU last year. It currently faces zero tariffs into the EU.
  • If it loses its preferential access into the EU then its domestic market will be oversupplied, further reducing demand for NZ product, but this could potentially improve our market into the EU. 

The process of Brexit as we understand it at present:

  • There will be no immediate change to any access conditions until the UK officially ‘exits’ the EU which will take around two years, if not longer.
  • The departing Member State must notify the European Council (the leaders of each Member State) that it has decided to leave, and after this the departing Member State and the remaining Member States must negotiate the terms of exit.
  • The terms of exit must be agreed between the departing Member State, and a qualified majority of the remaining Member States. A qualified majority means 55 percent of remaining Member States, representing 65 percent of the remaining EU population.
  • European Union membership will automatically cease two years after the departing Member State gave notice of withdrawal if no agreement is reached. However, if there is unanimous agreement from all Member States, the negotiation process can be extended.
  • Under the WTO rules, the UK and EU would be legally obliged to retain New Zealand preferential access conditions (quotas) for red meat, however how this would be achieved is a cause for concern for the sector.

Federated Farmers says New Zealand needs to milk Brexit for all it’s worth:

With Britain voting to exit the European Union today, Federated Farmers is urging diplomats and export companies to be quick off the block and first inline for meetings to push New Zealand’s agenda.

Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston said: “Britain leaving the EU will create a considerable degree of political and financial uncertainty but we must consider what new opportunities might be won. This could be a great opportunity to work with lamb producers in the UK to get better outcomes for both countries.

“We have a shared history with the UK and want to ensure this outcome works in both countries’ interests. We need to emphasis our common thinking and remind Britain we are an important ally.

“The key thing for farmers is assessing how this change will affect trade to Britain as well as Europe and what this means for our free trade negotiations.

“The vote suggests a significant threat against the trends of globalisation and trade liberalisation. New Zealand as a small open economy will be a loser if protectionism prevails.” Dr Rolleston said.

Currently New Zealand primary exports to Britain are at three percent and 11 percent to Europe. Farmers are in a very different position than we were when Britain entered the European Union 43 years ago; at that time 40 percent of our exports went to Britain. Before that in the 1950s over 80 percent of New Zealand exports went to Britain.

Charles Finny echoes the need to move quickly:

What has happened today is hugely significant for New Zealand.
The UK is still a major market for us the official stats of $1.651 billion is probably understated. Taking the UK numbers out of the EU total reduces our goods exports to the EU to $3.738 billion – $1 billion less than our exports to ASEAN.
Our FTA negotiation with the EU has just become hugely complicated.
And we have our quotas into the EU – hard fought for and then hard defended potentially up for re-negotiation.
I think markets are over reacting. Nothing will happen to trade flows overnight. Moreover we can do a FTA with the UK fast and help to negotiate access for the UK into Asia that will be superior to that the EU will. And I think the chances of a UK-US FTA is also higher than a TTIP being concluded.
I don’t think that the consequences for UK trade with the EU will be as negative as many have been suggesting. Even in a worst case scenario of no FTA type relationship there will be almost zero negative impact apart from in agriculture
I don’t think the negatives for NZ will be as big as some have suggested – so long as we move fast.

Dr Oliver Hartwich, writing before the result was known,  says we should keep calm and carry on:

. . .Such political uncertainties aside, there is no need to panic. Not even in case of Brexit. The slogan has to be ‘Keep calm and carry on’.

Even a Brexit vote would not mean that Britain is out of the EU straight away. It would only give the UK government the mandate to inform Brussels of their wish to withdraw. They would not have to do so immediately though. If Prime Minister Cameron had to go, he would most likely leave this task to his successor.

Negotiations would only begin once the EU is officially notified. Under Article 50 of the EU Treaty, these would take at least two years.

Over all this time, nothing would change. Britain would have access to European markets. And they could well retain it depending on the outcome of the negotiations.

So we will watch the count of the referendum with excitement. But let’s keep calm no matter what the result. There is no need to panic either way.

The referendum result will mean big changes for the UK and will almost certainly prompt change in the EU.

The UK’s entry to what was then called the European Common Market  caused a great deal of angst and difficulty for New Zealand because the UK bought so much of our produce.

Its exit shouldn’t be nearly so problematic because our trading eggs are in far more baskets.

Where there are big changes there are also opportunities.  New Zealand should make the most of them and continue to promote free trade and seek deals with individual countries and trading blocks.

 

 


Brexit – stay or go?

June 23, 2016

Tonight, New Zealand time, the polls open to allow people in the UK to vote on whether or not they stay in the European Union.

The euro makes life easier for people travelling between the countries which use it. But monetary union doesn’t work properly when the parties to it don’t have economic union.

The UK was sensible to retain its own currency.However, the rush to swap pounds for euro shows people believe victory for the leave campaign would result in a substantial fall in the value of the pound.

The theory of the EU has a lot to commend it  – a single market with free movement of people and trade. But politics and a bloated bureaucracy have too often meant the promise hasn’t been realised.

Whatever the people of Britain and Northern Ireland vote for or against Brexit, the EU needs major reform.

 

 


TPP text released

November 6, 2015

The full text of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) has been released just as the government always said it would be.

The usual suspects, at least some of whom are opposed to any trade, will continue their opposition. Some might even trawl through all of its 6,000 pages to base their opposition on something which is actually in the agreement.

But one of the measures of the importance of being in this particular tent was what happened soon after the 12 countries to it reached their agreement.

Indonesia said it wants to join and the EU approached New Zealand to start negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement.

The TPPA is not perfect but we have too much to lose by not being part of it and enough to gain by signing up to make it worthwhile.

 


Rural round-up

November 3, 2015

Advertising executive’s shock speech tackles farmer depression – Rachel Thomas:

The final speech of the day was supposed to be a light-hearted talk about city boys working in the country.

Instead, advertising executive Matt Shirtcliffe stood up in front of a conference of roughly 120 farming and business folk and told them his wife was dead. 

“Depression took her life.” . . 

The presentation is here.

Kathryn Ryan interviewed Matt Shirtcliffe here.

India farmers’ ‘seeds of suicide’: 200-year old story behind a modern tragedy – Aneela Mirchandani :

In 1998, a farmer in Warangal, India killed himself after a failed crop by drinking pesticide. His body was found hours later lying amidst his one-acre crop, which was overrun by worms. This suicide was one of many that were reported on at the time; the incidence was particularly high among cotton farmers. It set off much hand-wringing in the press: how was India failing its farmers?

The stated cause of this farmer’s suicide was debt, and many anti-GMO activists have linked a spate of similar tragedies to the introduction of GMO cotton — although the genetically engineered crop was not introduced into India until 2002. But if one looks deeper, one can see the real cause: modern crops and a modern economy abutted against a rural population that had changed little since the nineteenth century. . . 

“We farm!”  Wait…  What?  (Our cows explained) – Uptown Girl:

“What do you do?”  Sometimes I identify myself with a lengthy description of my career in Ag finance, but often I just leave it at, “We farm!”
 
I also find myself using “We farm” as an explanation as to why I am alone so often at gatherings.  But the more people I talk to, the more I realize that not everyone knows what I mean when I say, “We farm”.  So I am going to explain exactly what “farming” means to my family.
 
Our farm consists of our cows, our sheep, and our row crops.  I will cover each of these over the next few posts, but will start with our cows.
 
One of my favorite parts of our farm is our cattle herd.  We have what is commonly called a “Cow/Calf operation” – meaning we maintain a group of cows who will raise a baby calf each year, and then sell the baby at weaning time.  . . 

New regulations to protect oceans:

New Government regulations to manage the waste and pollution within New Zealand’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) come into effect today, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says. 

“These new regulations cover discharges of pollutants and waste from offshore installations like oil rigs and ships in the six million square kilometres of ocean in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf. They provide clear rules that protect the ocean environment and are the final stage of implementing the Government’s new environmental law covering the ocean,” Dr Smith says.  . . 

Glerups extends wool contract with NZ Merino through 2017 – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Glerups, the Danish woollen slipper maker, has extended its contract with New Zealand woolgrowers to meet increased demand for its product.

The company inked a 2017 contract through the New Zealand Merino Company for 120 tonnes of wool for about $1.5 million, during a visit to New Zealand this week, and expects to return next year to secure a 2018 contract, said Glerups supply chain manager Jesper Glerup Kristensen, the son of the company founder Nanny Glerup. It also extended its 2016 contract by 20 tonnes to 100 tonnes, up from 80 tonnes this year. . . 

Red Meat Sector welcomes decision to negotiate an EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA) are delighted that the European Union and New Zealand are set to progress negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, as announced by Prime Minister John Key in Brussels.

The European Union (EU) is a very significant export market for New Zealand red meat products, worth nearly NZ$1.9 billion for the year ended December 2014. The EU is New Zealand’s largest market by region for sheepmeat exports, and second-largest for chilled beef and wool exports. . . 

Appointment of Independent Director to Fonterra Board:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited announced today the appointment of a new Independent Director Clinton Dines who will take up the Board position made vacant when Sir Ralph Norris steps down at the Annual Meeting on 25 November.

Chairman John Wilson said world-class governance is one of the Board’s top priorities, and the Co-operative needed directors with a broad range of talent and depth of business experience.

“The Board welcomes Mr Dines, an Australian, who has outstanding business and governance credentials. . . .

Fonterra Welcomes Progress towards NZ EU FTA:

Fonterra has welcomed today’s announcement in Brussels that Prime Minister John Key will begin discussions on a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

“This is an important first step towards a comprehensive and high-quality free trade agreement with the EU. We have free trade agreements with almost all of our other major trading partners, so this really is the missing piece,” said Miles Hurrell, Group Director of Co-operative Affairs. . . 

Wine Industry welcomes prospect of free trade with the EU:

New Zealand Winegrowers welcomes the announcement of a proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between New Zealand and the EU.

Improved access into the EU would be hugely beneficial to industry growth, commented Philip Gregan, New Zealand Winegrowers CEO. ‘An FTA with the EU would be a great outcome for New Zealand’s wine industry. The EU, as a whole, represents our single largest market, with exports totalling over $460 million and representing in excess of 30% of total wine exports. . . 

 


Like bad old days

February 8, 2013

We’re now nearly three decades from the bad old days when farming was governed by subsidies.

Farmers in other parts of the world haven’t made the tough but necessary change to standing on their own feet.

Among them are the Welsh whose reliance on subsidies is behind their plea for Britain to stay in the European Union:

Welsh farming could be ruined if the UK leaves the European Union and its common market, warned Farmers’ Union of Wales president Emyr Jones.

Speaking at a FUW lunch at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday (30 January), Mr Jones said 80% of Welsh farm income was dependent on payment support from the European Union and access to EU markets, a sum worth up to half a billion pounds. . .

Market access from free trade among member states is one of the EU’s strengths but political union isn’t the only way to get rid of trade barriers.

The subsidies are one of its big weaknesses.

Subsidies encourage inefficient farming, add costs to both tax payers and consumers, and blind producers to market signals.

Farmers here used to be heavily subsidised. The abrupt introduction to the real world by the reforms of the 1980s was painful but necessary and no good farmer would want to go back to the bad old days.


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