Rural round-up

19/08/2020

COVID-19: Time for a rethink on priorities – Doug Edmeades:

The Government needs to put environmental goals on the back burner whilst managing debt from COVID-19, according to Dr Doug Edmeades.

New Zealand’s Government has spent about $50-odd billion to-date to counteract the ravages of the COVID virus.

It is an enormous debt. Somehow, someday, we must repay it. But how?

Unfortunately, our tourism industry is also a casualty of the virus. This leaves agriculture as the only industry large enough to muscle-down this debt over time. . . 

Ruminant methane under the spotlight:

For over 20 years New Zealand’s farmers have been unfairly harangued and vilified for their animal’s ruminant methane emissions and a new farming group says it wants to set the record straight.

A recently established organization named “FARM”, which stands for Facts About Ruminant Methane, has been set up by concerned farmers and scientists to present the facts about ruminant methane to challenge unjustified, unscientific emissions reduction requirements imposed by the Government.

FARM says the politics is running away from commonsense and science with current climate policy based on flawed input data about ruminant methane’s impact. . . 

Long way from being out of the woods yet – Allan Barber:

The sense of calm and normality pervading the country for over three months has been shattered by the latest cases of community transmission the country. Until today New Zealanders have been going about their everyday lives, most of them still with jobs and being paid, at least until the wage subsidy ends, while the major concerns appeared to be what Judith’s raised eyebrows say, which political poll is closer to reality, and how many more people would break out of quarantine. Suddenly the media has a lot more than the election to get its teeth into.

Cars have been selling faster than ever, house prices remain steady, people have been able to eat out and travel round the country, enjoying local tourism experiences instead of flying round the world, and agricultural export prices have held up reasonably well. It seemed at first glance as if all was right in our little corner of the world. But the latest events have proved this may just be the calm before the storm which could be brewing in any number of different ways. While optimism is great, it would be as well to anticipate some of the risks facing New Zealand and ensure there are strategies to manage them. . . 

Fonterra confirms appointment of Teh-han Chow:

Fonterra is pleased to confirm the appointment of Teh-han Chow to the role of Chief Executive Officer, Greater China.

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell says since December 2019, Teh-han has been at the helm in an acting capacity, overseeing the Co-op’s overall Greater China business, including Ingredients, Foodservice, Consumer Brands and China Farms.

“He’s made an impressive contribution. It’s certainly not been a steady-state. Teh-han has been responsible for implementation of our new strategy across the Greater China business, and over the course of this calendar year, has shown outstanding resilience, resourcefulness and empathy in getting his team and our China business through the ongoing challenge of the COVID-19 global pandemic. . . 

Growing Food Through COVID-19 – Nutrient Services Essential (again) :

As farming gears up for a busy spring, farm nutrient provider Ravensdown has been given the green light as an essential service as it was during previous levels 3 and 4.

Back in autumn, farmers were catching up on fertiliser and feed as they tried to recover from a crippling drought. A potentially COVID-disrupted spring places different demands on the farm nutrient and environmental experts as soil tests, fertiliser recommendations, nutrient budgets and farm environmental plans need to be generated.

“Our network will be operating as before ensuring the essential nutrients remain available as farmers grow the food for people and livestock,” said Bryan Inch General Manager Customer Relationships. “The team of on-farm advisors will try to do what they can remotely, but unlike the last lockdown, on really important occasions they will need to visit a farm. Of course, they will check ahead and comply with the relevant government advice around safe interaction.” . . 

Derecho: Assessing damage – Rob Swoboda:

Across a wide swath of central and eastern Iowa, people are dealing with the heartbreaking aftermath of a rare derecho windstorm that has turned what was looking like a big corn and soybean crop into deep losses for many farmers.

The Aug. 10 storm flattened cornfields and destroyed or damaged barns, machine sheds, livestock buildings, grain bins, and homes. Central and eastern Iowa were hit by winds up to 100 mph. A derecho is an inland hurricane with ferocious straight-line winds and varying amounts of rain.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig traveled the area to get a firsthand look at the damage, listening to farmers and other folks affected. He held a phone conference with reporters Aug. 12 after viewing fields in central and west-central Iowa. . . 


Rural round-up

13/08/2020

Workforce gap will hobble spring/summer production – Feds:

Tens of millions of dollars’ worth of farm production and the jobs of other workers are at risk if the government continues to dither on allowing a limited number of skilled agricultural machinery operators into New Zealand.

“Federated Farmers has been working with Rural Contractors NZ on this issue for several months,” Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.
“It has almost gone past critical now because we’re on the cusp of Spring activity and we need to get these seasonal workers on flights and into quarantine for two weeks.”

Exemptions have been allowed for workers laying synthetic tracks for horse racing, for the movie industry, and others. . . 

‘High $20/hour’ jobs available, but where are the workers? – Esther Taunton:

Southland’s Waipounamu Contracting is in dire need of people to drive its tractors and heavy machinery.

Human resources manager Emily Hawker said the company usually employed 15 to 20 workers from the United Kingdom and Ireland for the busy harvest period from November to March.

But with the borders closed to all but the most essential workers due to coronavirus, Waipounamu is scrambling to find Kiwis to fill the roles.

In a normal year, the business has room for two or three inexperienced employees but this year there could be up to 15 inexperienced operators, a “recipe for disaster”, Hawker said. . . 

Can strong wool find a new El Dorado? – Keith Woodford:

There are opportunities for strong wool based on quality and sustainability but it needs action plus applied R&D rather than more reports

There was a time when strong wool was used widely for garments. That included woollen underwear, woollen shirts, woollen jerseys and woollen jackets.  Apart from the fine wool produced by Merino sheep, those markets have largely been swept aside by synthetics.

There was also a time when carpets were predominantly of the woollen type. Then some lower cost but inferior synthetic carpets came along. And then some superior synthetic but still lower cost carpets came along. As with garments, the strong wool carpets have been largely swept aside. Strong wool carpets do still exist, but they are now a niche. . . 

Holding out for a better future – George Clark:

Timaru’s last large-scale wool merchant still holds hope for a strong future.

Terry Mulcahy, who died in 2013, started Mulcahy Wool and Skins in 1948.

His son, Barry, took over the business in 1985 and has remained in the wool industry ever since.

The company handles slightly more than 7500 bales a year, ranging from coarse crossbred to fine merino.

Mr Mulcahy has seen it all, from the height of the wool boom to this month’s market lows. . . 

From uncertainty to business owner – George Clark:

It is a yarn borne out of Covid-19.

With the tourism industry facing economic uncertainty, Canadian expat Kate Jones believed it was the right time for financial diversification.

At the beginning of June, Ms Jones was working a reduced and subsidised 20 hours a week for Mt Cook tourism company Alpine Guides while continuing plans for life on a Mackenzie lifestyle block.

Bought last year, the 4ha property just outside Twizel would become home to herself and Kiwi partner Chris Mackie. . . 

Another bumper year ahead?  – Sudesh Kissun:

Avocado growers are looking forward to another bumper year despite the global economic uncertainty.

NZ Avocado says the 2020-21 season crop is “looking very good on the trees”, with an expected 10-15% increase in volumes.

Last season, avocado growers received $154 million for their crop, a $10m increase over the previous season.

Exports rose 26% to 3.8m 5.5kg trays. Asian markets including Thailand, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan received 35% more volume, meeting the industry’s objective to grow volume to the region. . .

 


Rural round-up

06/05/2020

Turning the environmental table on urban households – Cameron Bagrie:

Farmers have worn the pointed fingers on the envirionment despite most playing by the rules and many doing even better than what the rules require. It is rural communities we can thank for much of the environmental progress we’ve already made.

There are isolated instances of poor behaviour – just as in any industry, but in aggregate, farmers are moving forward.

Increasingly, farmers have been required to operate under Farm Management Plans (FMPs), against which their environmental performance is audited.

City folk should consider what their equivalent of an FMP – call it a Household Management Plan – would look like. . .

New Zealand Agricultural Show cancelled  – Tracy Neal:

The South Island’s largest springtime event, the New Zealand Agricultural Show, has been cancelled for the first time since World War 2.

Organisers said public safety concerns and a fragile financial position were behind the decision to cancel this year’s November show.

The Canterbury A&P Association made the announcement today, saying the likelihood of a lingering response to the Covid-19 crisis made planning for such a large event untenable.

It was now also calling for public help to secure the event’s long-term future. . .

Two-pronged approach needed to address dairy staff shortfall:

DairyNZ is calling on the Government to work with the dairy sector to address a looming staff shortage for the coming season, that has been exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19.

By the end of September around 2500 visas are due to expire for migrant staff currently working on dairy farms. Many are based in Canterbury, Waikato, Southland and Otago. Both farmers and farm staff are desperately seeking certainty.

“We estimate that even if all migrant dairy workers currently in New Zealand were retained, there could be a shortfall of up to 1000 employees for the coming dairy season,” said Dr Tim Mackle, DairyNZ chief executive.

“This suggests that we are going to need to take a two-pronged approach to address the staffing shortfall that will include both retaining our migrant workforce and recruiting new Kiwis into our dairy sector. . .

NZ coconut and avocado oil producer to expand into the Pacific :

A New Zealand coconut and avocado oil producer, who is promising Pacific farmers much higher returns than they currently get, hopes to start operating within just months.

Whangarei-based Cocavo is headed by Chris Nathan who has been trying to set up operations in Fiji since 2018.

He said it’s taken awhile to find the right piece of land, and there were other difficulties, but they now have equipment, and building should soon be underway.

Mr Nathan said there is also strong interest from Luganville on Vanuatu’s Espirito Santo. . .

Safe domestic travel should be considered at Level 2:

The New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association and Game Animal Council are joining other tourism and recreation organisations in calling for an easing of domestic travel restrictions at Alert Level 2.

“Hunting guides, helicopter operators, accommodation providers and outfitters have suffered considerably through the lockdown,” says New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association President James Cagney. “Domestic travel will allow some of these businesses to restructure their offerings to New Zealand customers and keep operating.”

“While the industry has missed out on this year’s roar there is still fantastic late-autumn and winter hunting available, particularly for bull tahr, chamois, red stags and late rut sika. It would be fantastic if New Zealand hunters were able to get out and enjoy these opportunities and at the same time support the livelihoods of those in the industry.” . . 

Dairy processors warn on coronavirus disruption – Carlene Dowie:

Executives from two of Australia’s biggest dairy processors have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting markets in ways not seen before.

Bega chairman Barry Irvin and Fonterra chief financial officer Marc Rivers told the Pac Partners/Westpac 2020 Agfood Virtual Conference on Wednesday having diverse manufacturing options had allowed them to adapt.

Both pointed to immediate lower commodity prices but saw glimmers of positivity for the future.

And both said there was a need for further rationalisation of Australia’s dairy manufacturing base. . .

 


Rural round-up

15/10/2019

Liberated they sold the plough – Neal Wallace:

Mike Porter reckons he has re-educated himself how to farm in the last five years. Neal Wallace meets the South Canterbury arable farmer who is not afraid of change.

Mike Porter is a considered man.

His views and actions are more than opinions formed from spending too many hours behind the wheel of a tractor on his South Canterbury arable farm.

Porter has carefully considered and studied options to some of the big issues he faces on his 480ha arable and livestock farm at Lyalldale, which he runs with wife Lynne. . .

Stronger YFC, school links the goal – Yvonne O’Hara:

Otago-Southland territory manager Bridget (Biddy) Huddleston, of Alexandra, is keen to see closer ties between the New Zealand Young Farmers clubs, and schools.

”Nationally, we are going to increase our focus on Young Farmers clubs and the [school-based] TeenAg clubs,” she said.

”Moving forward, the challenge for us will be how we are going to structure that.”

She also wants to encourage a greater uptake of the organisation’s education ”Agrication” food production resources, which have been developed by NZYF and teachers, ticked off by NZQA and funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership for schools, which are designed to give pupils a greater awareness of food production. . .

Frost this spring has been ‘unrelenting’, say winegrowers – Maja Burry:

Winegrowers in some regions are reporting a turbulent start to the new grape growing season, with frost-fighting efforts already well up on last year.

ANZ rural economist Susan Kilsby said early varieties were budding which was causing some concern due to the recent cold snap.

“There certainly has been some concern around frost, certainly in the Wairarapa and Marlborough, so everyone’s been out fighting frost, [but] so far I’ve only heard of damage of small areas of some of the early season crops,” Ms Kilsby said. . . 

Held stock boost sheep numbers – Alan Williams:

South Island sheep numbers rose slightly in the latest June year but some of the gain was caused by higher numbers being carried over for processing between July and September.

In the North Island the sheep population was slightly lower on June 30 than a year earlier and also included plenty of carry-over trade lambs in the Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty due for processing, Beef + Lamb says its New Season Outlook.

Total sheep numbers were estimated at 27.4 million, with the North Island at 13.5m, down 92,000 or 0.7%. South Island numbers were 13.9m, up 1.4%. . .

Commission releases draft report on Fonterra’s milk price:

The Commerce Commission has today released its draft report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2018/19 dairy season.

The Commission is required to review Fonterra’s base milk price calculation at the end of each dairy season under the milk price monitoring regime in the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA).

The base milk price is the average price that Fonterra pays farmers for raw milk, which was calculated at $6.35 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2018/19 dairy season. The report does not cover the forecast 2019/20 price of $6.25-$7.25 that Fonterra announced in May.

Commission Deputy Chair Sue Begg said this year’s review of the 2018/19 base milk price revealed no new major areas of concern. . . 

Medicinal cannabis company Rua Bioscience seeks experienced grower – Esther Taunton:

A Kiwi company is on the hunt for a green-thumbed project manager, preferably with cannabis growing experience.

Gisborne-based Rua Bioscience was the first local company to secure a license to cultivate medicinal cannabis and is now looking for someone to help grow its budding operation.

Advertised online this week, the cultivation project manager would “play a key role in setting up stage two of our cultivation and growing activities”.  . . 

China is breeding massive pigs that weigh more than a grand piano -Kristin Houser:

Pork Problems

A devastating outbreak of African swine fever has destroyed an estimated half of China’s pig population over the past year or so.

That’s a huge deal given that China consumes more pork than any other nation, so China’s government responded by urging farmers to increase pig production — and some have taken that to mean they should breed the biggest pigs we’ve seen this side of “Okja,” according to a new Bloomberg story.

Making Weight

Bloomberg notes that some Chinese farmers have managed to increase the typical average weight of their pigs at slaughter from 110 kilograms (242 pounds) up to 140 kilograms (308 pounds).

In the province of Jilin, meanwhile, farmers are trying to raise the pigs “as big as possible,” farmer Zhao Hailin told Bloomberg, with the goal being an average weight of 175 to 200 kilograms (385 to 440 pounds) as opposed to the typical 125 kilograms (275 pounds). . .


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