Rural round-up

September 22, 2016

The P epidemic has reached Waikato farms – Chris Lewis:

Federated Farmers runs an 0800 helpline for members, which is a popular way our members get value out of their subscriptions. Increasingly we are getting member calls around drugs and alcohol and advice on how to address this growing issue.

We’ve previously provided advice to farmers who have had multiple houses contaminated with P and even advice to a farmer for an entire workforce that tested positive for drugs. Some of the common questions being asked include: If I don’t have a drug and alcohol policy, how do I go about testing my staff? And, am I insured for my houses and business?

So what are our rights as employers? Should you turn a blind eye so your cows get milked? It is time to directly answer some of the questions, and for you to get answers from experts who work in this field. . . 

SFF ‘unleashed’ by assent – Dene Mackenzie:

Silver Fern Farms would be a ”company unleashed” now approval for Shanghai Maling to buy 50% of the Dunedin meat processor had been confirmed, SFF chairman Rob Hewett said yesterday.

After months of debate and some opposition from dissenting shareholders, Shanghai Maling received approval yesterday to inject $261million into SFF and take a 50% share.

The decision was never in doubt, although the Overseas Investment Office process was a ”black box”, Mr Hewett said in an interview. . . 

Govt defends Wairarapa water grant:

A Wairarapa irrigation system which didn’t stack up economically still got taxpayer cash from the Ministry for Primary Industries, says a damning study commissioned by Fish & Game.

But MPI is standing by its decision and says the report is flawed.

Fish & Game has released an independent analysis of the Wairarapa Water scheme’s successful application for $821,500 from MPI’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund for stage 2 of the scheme, which aims to irrigate 30,000ha.

The 2014 application was based on a long run farmgate milk price of $7.07 per kg of milksolids, which was questionable, and that 55 percent of the irrigated land would quickly be converted to dairy, says author Peter Fraser, of Ropere Consulting. . . 

Strong 2015/16 Profit Result for Fonterra, Encouraging Milk Price Signals Ahead for Fonterra Farmers

Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Duncan Coull, said Fonterra’s recording of its highest ever EBIT, which resulted in Fonterra Farmers receiving a 60% increase on the earning per share received last season, was a positive result in an otherwise challenging environment.

Mr Coull: “The final payout of $4.30 for a fully shared-up Farmer is reflective of the very tough season we have endured.

“However, it is encouraging to see that Fonterra, assisted by the low Milk Price environment, has further driven volume into value and captured efficiency gains which have cumulated into a strong dividend while also serving to strengthen our Co-operative’s balance sheet. . .

Self-resetting rat traps 20 times better than standard traps -study:

Self-resetting rat traps are 20 times more effective at killing the pests than standard traps, a new study has shown.

The project – conducted by Bay of Plenty Polytechnic student Chantal Lillas – compared the amount of rats killed by self-resetting traps over a 10-day period last month, compared to the single-action traps more commonly used.

The self resetting traps were developed by the company Goodnature in collaboration with the Department to Conservation, and could reset up to 24 times before it needed to be reloaded. . . 

Zespri Board announces succession planning for new CEO:

The Board of Directors of Zespri will start a search process next year to select a new Chief Executive Officer. The succession is being planned with a view to having the new CEO in place by the beginning of 2018.

The current CEO Lain Jager, who was appointed Zespri CEO in December 2008, will remain in the role until the new CEO starts.

Zespri Chairman Peter McBride says the Board is balancing continuity and renewal in the leadership of the organisation. “The Zespri Board has set out a process for succession at an optimal time. The timeframe helps to ensure continuity through this transition, which is important given Zespri’s critical role in the value chain for kiwifruit growers and customers globally.” . . 

NZ Merino lifts annual profit 19%, meets growth targets – Tina Morrison:

Sept. 21 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand Merino Co, a wool marketer that aims to develop higher-value markets for sheep products, posted a 19 percent lift in annual profit and said its business has doubled in value over the past three years.

Profit rose to $2.7 million in the year ended June 30, from $2.3 million a year earlier, according to the Christchurch-based company’s 2016 annual report. Revenue rose 4.9 percent to $114.7 million, while cost of sales gained 5.7 percent to $104 million. It will pay its more than 500 growers a total dividend of $1.36 million, up from $1.1 million the previous year and in line with its policy of returning 50 percent of profit to shareholders. . . 

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Don’t complain about a farmer with your mouth full.


Shanghai Maling goes where shareholders wouldn’t

September 21, 2016

Shanghai Maling’s application to purchase a 50 per cent interest in Silver Fern Farms has been approved.

Minister for Land Information Louise Upston, and Associate Minister for Finance Paula Bennett, the decision-making Ministers, are satisfied that the purchase would create substantial and identifiable benefit for New Zealand.

“The Overseas Investment Office recommended that we approve Shanghai Maling’s application because it meets the criteria set down in the Overseas Investment Act 2005,” Ms Upston says.

“We are satisfied that the investment will be of substantial and identifiable benefit to New Zealand, which is the test set out in the Act. The investment will put the company in a better financial position and allow it to increase its exports.

“New Zealand shareholders will continue to have 50 per cent ownership of Silver Fern Farms, while benefiting from the injection of funds from the new investor.”

Not surprisingly SFF has welcomed the decision:

The proposed investment is now unconditional and is set to complete on 4 January 2017, the first business day of the new financial year for the partnership.

Silver Fern Farms Chairman, Rob Hewett said the new partnership with Shanghai Maling creates a unique opportunity for Silver Fern Farms.

“Shanghai Maling’s financial investment will make Silver Fern Farms the financially strongest company in the New Zealand meat industry with the ability to confidently invest in our business.

“The partnership will help us accelerate our consumer focused plate to pasture strategy globally, and to grow sustainable value for our shareholders and farmer suppliers over time.

“It is very pleasing to now be at this point after nearly 12 months, and we look forward to the partnership getting underway in the new year.”

Shanghai Maling President Wei Ping Shen was pleased the partnership could now be completed. “We are very pleased with the regulatory approval for this partnership. It clears the way for us to move ahead with the partnership. New Zealand grass fed red meat is the best in the world and the Silver Fern Farms’ brand has the potential to become a leading red meat brand globally.”

Mr Hewett stated that after the investment completes the Co-operative will, as previously advised, pay a special dividend of 30c per share to all ordinary and rebate shares expected to be paid prior to 31 March 2017) and will commence the redemption of the remaining approximately $5m of Supplier Investment Shares outstanding.

 Federated Farmers says it’s a sensible decision for New Zealand:

New Zealand will enjoy benefits from the approval for Shanghai Maling Aquarius to acquire a 50 percent ownership stake in Silver Fern Farms.

Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre Chair Rick Powdrell says it’s a sensible decision for the country and aligns the company better to service the needs of global markets in a modern world.

“New Zealand farmer-shareholders will continue to own 50 percent of the co-operative and will enjoy the benefits of access to the growing Chinese market.

“This is exactly what the farmer-shareholders wanted, with a majority voting last month for the deal to be approved,” says Rick.

The decision has been met with the inevitable concerns over foreign ownership.

One of those was Winston Peters and Act leader David Seymour says the NZ First leader’s paranoia should be ignored:

Winston Peters’ call for intervention over the partial sale of a private company proves he is unfit to be in Government, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“It’s disturbing that Winston Peters, who could potentially hold the balance of power after the election, would override the recommendation of the Overseas Investment Office and block the partial sale of a private company,” says Mr Seymour.

“Why does Winston think he knows better than the thousands of Kiwi shareholders who voted for this sale?

Seymour is right – this is a decision for the shareholders, not politicians nor anyone else who has no money at stake.

However, he is a wee bit confused about what’s been sold:

“What’s Winston so afraid of? Does he think the cows will literally get shipped off to China? That the land itself will disappear? He’s just stirring up more anti-Chinese sentiment for cheap political gain.

SFF is a meat processing company which owns processing plants and the land they sit on but it’s not a farm.

“Blocking this sale would have prevented an injection of cash into the New Zealand economy, and would send a message to businesses that private property rights are not respected in this country.”

The critics fail to see that the decision brings money into New Zealand and, as Powdrell and Seymour say, it is what shareholders voted for.

They either didn’t have the money, or didn’t want to invest it in the company which would be in dire straits without it.

Shanghai Maling is going where shareholders couldn’t or wouldn’t.

This leaves just Alliance Group as the only co-operative in the meat industry and those farmers who aren’t happy about the SFF-Shanghai Maling deal have the option of supplying the co-operative or any of the other companies, New Zealand-owned or not.

Details of the decision are at Land Information NZ


Rural round-up

September 19, 2016

Officials crack down on dairy farmers for breaching employment obligations – Gerard Hutching:

Officials have discovered that half of the 28 dairy farms they visited in the last two months in Waikato were in breach of their employment obligations and have fined some farmers $2000 each.

The Labour Inspectorate has promised a nationwide crackdown on employers who fail to keep written employment agreements or time records. Maximum fines can reach $20,000 for serious breaches.

Federated Farmers dairy spokesman Andrew Hoggard said he could not defend the farmers.

“There are no excuses. Employment agreements have been around since 1991 so they can’t say they don’t know,” Hoggard  said. . .

Tenacity and vision mark tenure – Guy Williams:

One of Queenstown’s most respected community servants has hung up his chainsaw. Peter Willsman, the driving force behind the region’s ground-breaking wilding tree control group, has stepped down as co-chairman. Queenstown reporter Guy Williams asks him why, and looks at his legacy.

Wilding trees throughout the Wakatipu — and probably in the rest of the country as well — may well be standing a little taller this week.

That is because one of their biggest scourges, Peter Willsman, has called time on his leadership role in the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group (WCG).

Co-chairman since the group’s formation in 2009, he announced his resignation at its annual “reporting night” last week. . . 

100 farmers dump milk following silo collapse – Vaughan Elder:

About 100 farmers in Otago and Southland were forced to dump milk over the weekend in  the aftermath of the milk silo collapse at Fonterra’s Edendale site.

Fonterra has called in engineers from around New Zealand and the world to try to get the plant fully operational again after the silo collapsed  on Friday, bringing down an overhead gantry carrying large steam pipes.

Neighbours reported hearing a  loud boom about 1.50pm, followed by the  sound of steam escaping from the ruptured pipes, a noise which continued for about 30 minutes.

One said it sounded like a Boeing 747 flying low overhead. . . 

Farm trends shut yards – Neal Wallace:

The South Island’s largest sale yards at Temuka in South Canterbury are benefiting from competitors closing but could not take anything for granted, Temuka Saleyards Company chairman Ian Bowan says.  

The company has spent more than $100,000 on electronic ear tag readers and was planning a new effluent disposal system.  “We’ve kept up with everything. We haven’t got behind,” he said.  

News the Tinwald yards in Ashburton would close later this year confirmed a trend of consolidation of sale yards around the country, some closing and others holding fewer sales.  

Closures in recent years included Cromwell, Matamau near Dannevirke and Studholme and Holme Station in South Canterbury. . . 

Synlait’s Profit Triples in Fy16, Launches Next Growth Phase:

Synlait’s reported net profit after tax (NPAT) has more than tripled to $34.4 million for the financial year ending 31 July 2016.

Driven by an almost fourfold increase in canned infant formula volumes and growth in powder and cream product volumes, the positive result has also set the foundation for Synlait’s next phase of growth.

“Synlait is a growth company. Our FY16 performance highlights the progress we’ve made since our IPO in 2013 towards our aspiration of making more from milk,” said Chairman Graeme Milne.

“We are continuing this momentum with an accelerated pro-rata entitlement offer to eligible shareholders[1] to raise approximately $98 million in support of our next growth phase. Investing in further capital projects to expand our capability and capacity will put us in a strong position to pursue customer, product and market development opportunities in the coming years,” said Mr Milne. . . 

Quality can sell grain – Annette Scott:

New Zealand grains are in a league of their own and should be marketed as such, industry leaders say.  

Heavy reliance on the dairy industry had affected arable growers’ returns so they suggested other principle markets should be explored.  Market trends, challenges and opportunities were the focus of a grains forum held in Canterbury on Thursday.  

Facilitated by the Grain and Seed Trade Association (GSTA) in conjunction with the Foundation for Arable Research and Federated Farmers, the forum stimulated thinking around plans for future action in the grains sector. . . 

Prices keep heads shaking – Hugh Stringleman:

Keen demand for young cattle for restocking will centre on sale yard prices for 100kg weaners from the end of the month, AgriHQ livestock market analyst Rachel Agnew says.  

The weaner market was expected to open with prices well over $4/kg liveweight, probably $4.50 to $4.80.  

“Inquiry levels are starting to build up and the first weaner calves are an eagerly anticipated part of the annual cattle cycle,” she said.  

Buying weaners was a way of stocking up with the lowest financial outlay. . . 

Computing giant includes rural secondary schools in “vision’ competition:

HP New Zealand (HP NZ) is asking rural students to share their vision of how they think they will learn in the future to be in the running to win a share of $26,000 worth of HP products and support.

The HP Rural Schools Competition, in its third year, gives rural New Zealand primary schools – and for the first time this year – secondary schools, the chance to win HP technology and support best suited to the school’s needs. Entries are open now. . . 

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Rural round-up

September 5, 2016

Research breakthrough to boost native forestry – James Morton:

A scientific breakthrough could replenish vast expanses of our countryside with lush native forest – and offer a lucrative new forestry industry for New Zealand.

Scion researchers have discovered how to grow native trees, including rimu and totara, from cuttings taken from parent trees instead of seeds, enabling them to grow much faster and in larger amounts.

The new technology will be used a multi-million dollar nursery site opening near the Bay of Plenty village of Minginui this weekend, in a partnership with local iwi Ngati Whare. . . 

Sports awards to be ‘rural Halbergs’:

 Brand new awards celebrating sporting excellence among New Zealand’s rural athletes were launched today with organisers positioning the event as the “Halbergs for the rural sector”.

Rural sports associations are invited to nominate athletes for the Norwood New Zealand Rural Sports Awards presented by the New Zealand Rural Games Trust together with strategic partner, Federated Farmers of New Zealand.
 
An awards ceremony and gala dinner will be held at Awapuni Racecourse, Palmerston North on March 10, 2017, the night before the Hilux New Zealand Rural Games at The Square in the city centre, where many nominees will be competing. . . 

More farmers under bank ‘pressure‘ – Sally Rae:

More farmers are experiencing “undue pressure” from their banks and sharemilkers remain the most vulnerable in the sector, the latest Federated Farmers banking survey shows.

Overall satisfaction remained strong, with 80% of all farmers and 78.4% of dairy farmers either very satisfied or satisfied with their banks.

The survey showed sharemilkers were least satisfied. Given the current economic climate, it was no surprise they were the most exposed, Federated Farmers president William Rolleston said.

In relation to overdrafts, 15.8% said they experienced “undue pressure” and 22.2% experienced “undue pressure” concerning mortgages. . . 

The art of the covenant – Guy Williams:

Two years have passed since we learned four high country stations between Arrowtown and Lake Wanaka would be placed under protective covenants, effectively creating New Zealand’s first national park in private hands. Queenstown reporter Guy Williams finds out what is happening on the stations and asks whether the land will be protected and cared for forever.

They are called Mahu Whenua, meaning “healing the land” — four protective covenants covering 53,000ha across four high country stations: Motatapu, Mount Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak.

Their leases were bought between 2003 and 2011 by British record producer and songwriter Robert “Mutt” Lange — in the earlier years with then-wife, Canadian country-pop singer Shania Twain.

Two years ago, the QEII National Trust announced Lange would place 95% of the stations’ area under open space covenants, a decision then-Minister of Conservation Nick Smith hailed as an “extraordinary act of generosity”. . . 

North Canterbury farmer frustrated by mobile technology – Heather Chalmers

Do you have access to high-speed broadband?

If you live in the country then you probably don’t. Cellphone coverage is also probably patchy. And that is significantly holding back farmers, says North Canterbury sheep and beef farmer Dan Shand.

As a former Sydney IT worker and a Nuffield scholar he knows more than most in the agricultural sector about what is possible with mobile technology. He believes it holds the key to a whole wave of advances, both in on-farm decision-making and productivity and in adding market premiums. However, for a number of reasons this potential is being missed. . . 

Happy Valley to set up new A2 milk plant:

South Waikato dairy farmers wanting to join the A2 milk bonanza might have their chance as a new dairy company seeks consent to build a plant near Otorohanga.  

The Happy Valley Milk company was seeking resource consent for the project that would ultimately include two milk driers.  The first would be an eight tonnes an hour drier capable of producing multiple types of milk powders including A2 infant formula.

Project manager Grant Horan said the company was optimistic it could get the consent process through by the end of the year, with an estimated completion date of mid-2018. . . 

 

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Farming noun [fam -ing] the art of losing money while working 400 hours a month to feed people who think yare are trying to kill them.


Rural round-up

September 2, 2016

Fonterra on the eve of disruption – Fran O’Sullivan:

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings’ challenge ‘build windmills not walls’ is galvanising the dairy co-operative, writes Fran O’Sullivan.

Theo Spierings’ leadership has been tested as he re-engineers New Zealand’s biggest business during the tough times of a lengthy global commodity slump.

The story of how NZ dairy farmer incomes have plummeted, the company’s staff numbers have been slashed and hard calls made with its suppliers is well-traversed.

But behind the scenes there has been a fundamental refocusing of the company’s strategic operations which Spierings expects will result in a “strong picture” when he unveils Fonterra’s financial results late next month. . . 

Value-add products need a point of difference – Keith Woodford:

[This article was commissioned by the NZ Herald. It was written on 8 August 2016 and published on 31 August 2016. Since being written, some 24 days ago, we have seen substantial increases in dairy commodity prices, and in the short term (i.e. the forthcoming GDT dairy auction on 6 September GMT, and possibly subsequent auctions) these increases are likely to continue. However, the fundamentals remain unaltered; i.e commodities are highly volatile and will remain so, but there are also many traps for the unwary along the value-add path.]

There is increasing recognition within New Zealand that the dairy industry is in some trouble. Heading into a third year of low prices, questions have to be asked whether the industry is on a false path. And if so, where is the path back to firm ground?

Some will argue that the answers are simple: that we should reduce the dairy footprint on our land, and that we should focus on value-add. In reality, it is not that simple.

For those who live in the cities, it is easy to miss the importance of agribusiness to the overall economy. Much of New Zealand’s economic growth of the last 15 years is a direct consequence of a bountiful economic environment for agriculture in general and dairy in particular. . . 

GMO ruling frustrates biotech industry, farmers:

A lobby group representing New Zealand’s biotech industry fears further changes around the way genetically modified organisms are regulated could potentially force companies and scientists to shift overseas.

The High Court has upheld the Environment Court’s decision that local councils can have control over use and release of genetically modified organisms in their district.

The ruling was based on an appeal by Federated Farmers, which argued the release of GMOs was already regulated by the Environmental Protection Authority and local councils were not qualified to make such decisions.

But lobby group NZBIO chief executive Will Barker said the decision would come as a blow to the industry. . . 

Boat to change face of commercial fishing in NZ launched in Nelson:

A ceremony steeped in tradition was held in Nelson today to celebrate the launch of a boat that will change the face of commercial fishing in New Zealand.

The state-of-the-art vessel has been built for Tauranga-based fisherman Roger Rawlinson, of Ngati Awa descent. It has been named Santy Maria after his mother, who started the business with his father Bill more than 25 years ago.

The Santy Maria is the first vessel in Moana New Zealand’s $25-30 million fleet renewal project. It has been designed by Australian company OceanTech, with the technical expertise and vast fishing experience of Westfleet CEO Craig Boote, and constructed to the highest specifications by Aimex Service Group in Nelson. . . 

Seafood industry continues steady growth path:

The seafood industry continues to show strong growth with export earnings reaching $1.78 billion in the year to June, Seafood New Zealand’s Executive Chairman George Clement said today.

Speaking at the seafood industry’s annual conference, George Clement said the June result was an increase of $201 million on the same time last year, ”further demonstrating that we continue to make a significant contribution to the economy as one of the country’s main export earners,” he said.

“Last year industry accepted the Government’s aspirational goal of doubling export revenues by 2025 and we are on the growth path to achieve this,”
he said. . . 

The thirsty truth about avocados – Mitch McCann:

From Instagram to Pinterest, this is the golden age of avocados.

They’re so popular, the New Zealand industry’s earnings have doubled in the past three years.

Earlier this year avocado prices skyrocketed to around $4.50.

But now you can grab one for less than $2.

That’s because we’re into a bumper season, which may end up being New Zealand’s biggest ever.

But growing avocados takes a lot of water – much more than for things like potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce. . . 

Seeka announces the purchase of the Kiwi Crush™ and Kiwi Crushies™ product ranges from Vital Food Processors Ltd.:

Seeka Kiwifruit Industries (NZX-SEK), New Zealand’s and Australia’s largest kiwifruit grower, today announced the purchase of the Kiwi Crush and Kiwi Crushies product ranges from Auckland based Vital Food Processors Ltd (Vital Foods) for an undisclosed sum.

Kiwi Crush is a range of 100% natural kiwifruit based drinks that have since the early 1990s helped New Zealanders support and balance the digestive system. . . 

Hawkes Bay wine celebration reveals master class talent:

Two big names in the wine industry will be the hosts of the first-ever F.A.W.C! Masterclasses, at the Hawke’s Bay Wine Celebration.

A must-do event for wine lovers, when the cellar doors of 38 of the region’s finest wineries come together – the Hawke’s Bay Wine Celebration is being held in Auckland and Wellington next month. This is a unique opportunity to meet the winemakers while sampling award-winning wines. The event will showcase 50 Chardonnays, 38 Syrah, more than 30 Merlot Cabernet blends, as well as aromatic Riesling and Gewurztraminer through to newcomers Albarino, Tempranillo and luscious dessert wines. . . 


Rural round-up

September 1, 2016

How NZ dairy is trying to rule the world – a Bloomberg view – Emma O’Brien:

International news agency Bloomberg has taken a close look at Fonterra – see what it’s telling the world about our dairy giant and its plans to pay out more to its farmers.

In the shadow of a snow-dusted volcano on New Zealand’s North Island, a sprawling expanse of stainless steel vats, chimneys and giant warehouses stands as a totem of the tiny nation’s dominance in the global dairy trade.

The Whareroa factory was until recently the largest of its kind, churning out enough milk powder, cheese and cream to fill more than three Olympic-sized swimming pools a week.

The plant has helped make owner Fonterra Cooperative Group the world’s top dairy exporter and its farmer-suppliers among the greatest beneficiaries of China’s emerging thirst for milk. . . 

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It will not be enough for New Zealand to produce the best products in the world. Our produce will also have to reamin among the most sustainable. – John Key.

Seafood industry recognises its “stars”:

New Zealand seafood industry members who have made a significant contribution to the industry have been recognised in Wellington tonight in the inaugural Seafood Stars Awards.

The awards are part of the industry’s celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of the fisheries Quota Management System with awards for excellence and innovation within the industry.

“Every day in fishing communities around the country thousands of people go to work to contribute to our $1.8 billion export industry whether it’s putting to sea in our inshore fisheries, working away from home in our deepwater fisheries, working on salmon and mussel farms, or onshore processing and marketing our products,” says Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst. . . 

Sealord to make significant investment in fishing fleet – Shareholders back $70m new vessel purchase:

The country’s first new deepwater fishery vessel in 20 years
Will bring operational efficiency, sustainability and 80 new local jobs
New Zealand deep sea fishing company Sealord is to make a $70 million investment in its fishing fleet with the purchase of a new state-of-the-art vessel.

Chief Executive Officer Steve Yung says Sealord’s shareholders, Maori-owned Moana New Zealand (Aotearoa Fisheries Limited) and Japanese company Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd (Nissui), have committed to the vessel purchase, which they will part-fund.

“This will be the first new vessel for the country’s deepwater fishery in 20 years, since the introduction of Sealord’s FV Rehua, and the backing of our shareholders is clear demonstration of their long-term commitment to the business and support of our commercial and operational strategies. . . 

Zespri volumes, returns grow:

Zespri’s Annual Meeting today recapped the strong 2015/16 season for the kiwifruit industry – record sales and highest-ever total grower returns – as well as charting the industry’s future as the government approves amendments to the Kiwifruit Regulations.

2015/16 season recap

Zespri Chairman Peter McBride explains total sales revenue for the season grew to hit a record high of $1.9 billion, up 22 percent from the previous season. The total fruit and service payment to growers for New Zealand-grown fruit also grew 22 percent on the previous year to $1.143 billion, with average return per hectare reaching a record $60,758. . . 

Cracker potential for NZ cheese exports – Alexa Cook:

New Zealand needs to realise the export potential of its cheese market, UK industry veteran Juliet Harbutt says.

Mrs Harbutt, who established the British Cheese Awards, said New Zealand should pay as much attention to the value and money that could be made with cheese as it did with its wine industry.

“The extraordinary thing in New Zealand is that we’ve got all this wonderful land and fantastic grazing and all these cows, yet we still seem to be producing the vast majority of it into milk powder and cheddar,” said Mrs Harbutt, who has worked in the UK cheese industry for 30 years. . .

Exports could be affected by horticulture worker shortage – Alexa Cook:

New Zealand’s exports could suffer if demand for horticulture workers isn’t met, a primary industries training organisation says.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is aiming for the horticulture sector to reach $5.7 billion in exports by 2020, up $1.6 billion from the end of last year.

An MPI report shows that the horticulture industry needs nearly 8000 skilled workers by 2025 to cope with the predicted rise in production and export earning.  . . 

Farmers should get ready to cast their votes – Chris Lewis:

When you exercise your vote in October, make it count towards candidates who understand the rural community.

Last week I spoke about uncontested local election candidates who get a free pass on any accountability for their part in current issues.

It is so important that farmers get out and vote for candidates who can better represent them. If we don’t it makes the job of Federated Farmers so much harder.

The sad truth is the farming community is stuck with an old system of capital-based rates versus the central government’s existing tax on earnings.

Comparable to other residents, farmers pay significant sums of money to fund community services. It feels like we’re the ATM machines that keep councils’ lights on. . . 

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Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy cows.


Small failures

September 1, 2016

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board expects investigations will show a combination of small failures led to the gastroenteritis outbreak in Havelock North.

. . . The DHB’s chief executive, Kevin Snee, said he expected the government’s inquiry would show that there were small problems in the systems and processes used by the DHB, and by the district and regional councils.

He expected this to show that, when aligned, the problems allowed the water supply to become contaminated and people to get sick. . . 

This is so often the case, lots of small things add up to cause a big problem.

Earlier tests pointed to a ruminant animal as the cause of the outbreak.

Even before that was announced the usual suspects were blaming intensive dairy farming, in spite of there being none near the bore supplying the town.

. . . Federated Farmers president William Rolleston said the area near the aquifer was mostly lifestyle blocks and orchards.

He said people needed to take a step back from the speculation.

“We all contribute to bacteria in the environment, birds do, humans do and so do farm animals.

“Last week we saw a crescendo of finger pointing at agriculture, we heard that this was because of intensive dairy farms and the closest dairy farm we can find is 40 kilometres away.”

Mr Rolleston said while the indications did point to a four-legged animal as the source of contamination, that didn’t mean intensive agriculture was to blame.

He said the aquifer in question was a shallow aquifer, which had a greater risk of having its seals breached.

“We’re not saying that agriculture doesn’t create a risk, but those are the risks that the council needs to actually take cognisance of and mitigate.”

Last week the Green Party said any inquiry into the Havelock North water contamination should look at the role of intensive agriculture.

Mr Rolleston admitted agriculture was a risk for water.

“We’re not denying that and farmers have been up to the task. We’ve spent a billion dollars in the last decade fencing rivers and we’re playing our part.” . . 

Environment Minister Nick Smith also says speculation is unhelpful:

Questions have been asked about the culpability of cattle and chicken farmers, as well as a nearby mushroom farm, but Dr Smith says sometimes even the most basic failures could be to blame.

The campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North struck down 5100 people with gastro, closed schools and businesses and has left residents still boiling their drinking water weeks later.

It is a reminder of the E. coli contamination in Nelson where upstream farmers, birds and waterfowl were blamed before testing confirmed the true cause, Dr Smith says.

“It was embarrassingly found that most of the problem was toilets from the council’s library having been wrongly plumbed into the stormwater rather than the sewerage system,” he told crowds at a Lincoln University environment lecture in Christchurch on Tuesday night.

He said the lesson was to be cautious of jumping to conclusions too soon. . . 

He also addressed concerns about measuring water quality, limits on water takes and proposed strengthening of swimming requirements.

Dr Smith warned a goal of making all waterways swimmable, rather than wadeable, were “unworkable” and “impossible” without a massive bird cull.

But the Green Party has criticised that view as baseless.

“He knows, as we all do, that the real and lasting damage to our rivers is from stock in waterways, farm run-off, sewage and intensified dairy farms among others – he just won’t admit it,” Green Party water spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said. . . 

Tests above and below a dam on our farm confirmed birds were at the bottom of poor water quality.

The Otago Regional Council also proved seagulls were to blame for high levels of E.coli in the Kakanui River.

Up until recently, ORC staff and local farmers alike had been baffled about the cause of such high concentrations in the upper Kakanui, particularly during summer.

ORC staff have been concerned about the concentration of the bacteria, as high levels indicate a risk of people swimming becoming ill. The council enlisted the help of local farmers, who provided access to their properties and the nearby river for inspection.

ORC scientists went into the gorge to investigate by helicopter when this inspection failed to identify the source of the bacteria. The culprits − a large colony of nesting gulls − were found in rugged terrain, about 5km above the Clifton Falls bridge. Water quality samples were taken immediately above and below the colony, with divergent results.

Upstream of the colony, the bacteria concentrations were 214 E.coli/100ml, whereas immediately downstream, the concentration was far greater at 1300 E.coli/100ml.

The levels peaked on January 3, at 2400 parts per 100ml of water. ORC manager of resource science Matt Hickey said that according to Government water quality guidelines for recreational swimming areas, those with less than 260 E.coli/100ml should be safe, whereas water with more than 550 E.coli/100ml could pose a health-risk.

Mr Hickey said six colonies of gulls were found in total, on steep rocky faces, where they clearly favoured the habitat for nesting. While they had gone undetected up until now due to their inaccessibility, it was likely the gulls returned each year to breed.

“Unfortunately, these nesting gull colonies are likely to continue to cause high E.coli concentrations in the upper Kakanui River, particularly during the breeding season,” Mr Hickey said.

These are only two examples which show Delahunty is wrong to say birds aren’t a problem.

That doesn’t mean farming, especially when it’s intensive, is blameless.

There are many causes for poor water quality but many have happened over time and it will take time to get the improvements we all seek.

That is much more likely with the collaborative approach the Minister seeks:

New Zealand had a habit of turning environmental issues into a battle ground with winners and losers where farmers are seen as environmental vandals and environmentalists as economic imbeciles, Dr Smith said.

“I have been trying to lead a culture change at both a national and local level where different water users and interest groups work together on finding solutions that will work for the environment and the economy,” he said.

It doesn’t have to be either a healthy environment or a growing economy.

A collaborative approach, based on science, can achieve both.

Science must also be applied to the cause, and response to, Havelock North’s problems to ensure that a series of small failures doesn’t lead to large-scale gastroenteritis again.


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