Rural round-up

04/05/2021

Return of the rabbit plague – Melanie Reid:

The saying goes: “Never turn your back on a rabbit, especially in Central Otago”. But New Zealand has. And now the population has exploded – again. This week, Newsroom Investigates launches an in-depth series about the South Island rabbit rampage.

Rabbits are eating their way through parts of the South Island, turning productive farm land into bare, honeycombed ground where only weeds survive. Lifestyle blocks and subdivisions around Queenstown are infested. The North Otago town of Moeraki has them in plague proportions.

Welcome to another environmental fiasco in Aotearoa.

There have been two occasions in our history when rabbits were almost wiped out: in 1947, when the government set up a Rabbit Destruction Council with the aim to “kill the last rabbit,” and exactly 50 years later when the calicivirus was released illegally by a fed-up farmer. . . 

Sector fears govt module will confuse farmers – Neal Wallace:

The release of a Government initiated online tool to help farmers manage intensive winter grazing may create confusion, a primary sector group fears.

The online farm plan module was launched this week by the ministries for Primary Industry (MPI) and Environment (MfE) ahead of a similarly targeted information jointly formulated by Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ), DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and Deer Industry NZ.

B+LNZ environmental policy manager Corina Jordan says having two separate plan templates in circulation creates confusion, sends mixed messages and “adds to the noise” at a time farmers should be focused on developing a winter grazing plan.

“It was unnecessary for MPI and MfE to step into this space because we had a farm plan already developed. We were already doing it.” . . 

R&D crucial to meet GHG goals – Anne Boswell:

New Zealand farmers are already doing their bit, but more tools will be needed if they are to meet the targets outlined in the Climate Change Commission’s proposal.

DairyNZ says a substantial investment into research and development (R&D) is crucial if farmers are to meet the recommendations set out in the independent Climate Change Commission’s (CCC) draft carbon budgets proposal, released in January this year.

As an industry body, DairyNZ has made a comprehensive submission to the commission on farmers’ behalf, backed by economic, farm systems and scientific evidence. 

The submission outlined two key messages: don’t shift the goalposts, and that substantial investment in research and development was critical to the success of the proposal. . . 

Feds keen to engage in immigration review:

Federated Farmers is pleased that the Productivity Commission has decided to hold an inquiry into our current immigration settings and looks forward to engaging in the process.

The primary industries have traditionally looked to the migrant workforce to fill a range of roles where sufficient numbers of Kiwis are not available.

“The closure of the border has seen many roles, both permanent and seasonal, unable to be filled by Kiwis,” Feds Immigration Spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“The various sectors have done what they can to encourage more New Zealanders to work on farms, including training and recruitment initiatives and increases in wages, but some roles and regions remain critically short on suitable staff.. .

Agriculture machinery sales continue to be buoyant:

Growing demand for agricultural machinery and equipment has kicked 2021 off to fantastic start, according to the Tractor and Machinery Association of New Zealand (TAMA).

The momentum began to build during spring and summer of 2020 as the result of increasing customer confidence, said TAMA president Kyle Baxter.

Mr Baxter said he was seeing first-hand how strengthened commodity prices were giving farmers and rural contractors the confidence to invest in new equipment. .  .

Te Uru Rākau – NZ Forest Service explores biofuels as a major opportunity for New Zealand:

Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service is laying the foundations for a new biofuels industry, to turn forestry waste into a potential billion-dollar industry, and working on a business case with help from global investment experts Indufor Asia Pacific Ltd.

“Establishing a biofuels industry in New Zealand will require significant investment, so we’re moving ahead with developing the business case for this investment,” says Jason Wilson, director of sector investments at Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service.

Mr Wilson says research shows a biofuels industry would help New Zealand to meet its emissions targets and provide jobs and new industries in our regional centres. . . 


Rural round-up

19/01/2021

Why we can’t plant our way out of climate change – Marc Daalder:

As New Zealand gears up to fight climate change, experts warn that we need to actually reduce emissions, not just plant trees to offset our greenhouse gases, Marc Daalder reports

This year is shaping up to be a major one for climate policy. Between the Climate Change Commission releasing its recommendations around our Paris target and emissions budgets and a major climate summit in Glasgow in November, 2021 is the year the New Zealand Government will finally lay out in detail its plans to fight climate change.

Ahead of February 1, when the Commission will release drafts of its advice for consultation, experts warn that we shouldn’t be taken in by the allure of trees as a silver bullet. It’s true that major reforestation will be crucial to slowing global warming (and has added biodiversity benefits as well), because all plants sequester carbon breathed in from the atmosphere. . . 

Daigou disaster – Elbow Deep:

It is surprising how quickly a company’s fortunes can change; the A2 Milk Company (A2MC) played a dangerous high-stakes game, relying heavily on an informal network of Chinese students and personal shoppers to distribute much of its product into China. It’s a game that has cost other companies dearly in the past.

Daigou, buying on behalf, is a network of Chinese nationals living in or visiting Australia who buy local products and ship them back home to groups of friends, customers cultivated via the social media app WeChat. It is not uncommon for Chinese tour groups to visit stores like the Chemist Warehouse and buy products in bulk, much to the ire of locals.

Such is the demand from China for Australian packaged products that in 2019 a Sydney store owner was found to have stockpiled 4,000 1kg tins of baby formula ready for export. . . .

Concerns over shearer ‘bidding wars’ – Gerald Piddock:

Reports of unofficial bidding wars among Australian farmers to secure shearers has a New Zealand shearing boss worried it could lure Kiwi shearers across the Tasman to chase the money, leaving the industry short-staffed.

The shortage of shearers in Australia due to covid-19 restrictions meant some farmers were paying shearers 20-50% premiums per sheep above the usual rate, the ABC reported.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford told ABC farmers were offering shearers A$4-$5/head to shear sheep. The minimum pay rate to shear a sheep in Australia is A$3.24.

Prior to the covid-19 border restrictions, these jobs would have been taken up by NZ shearers. . . 

Exchange rate a pain point for meat export – Neal Wallace:

A wildly fluctuating exchange rate is causing headaches for meat exporters. Silver Fern Farms (SFF) says between October and November the NZ-US exchange rate rose from $US0.65 to $US0.71, wiping $140 a head off beef and up to $11 off a lamb.

As of late this week the exchange rate was $US0.72.

In a Christmas update podcast, SFF’s supply chain manager Dan Boulton says in addition to exchange rate fluctuation, the other headwind facing exporters as they enter peak production, is the congested global supply chain.

This is causing issues with container availability, shipping schedules and port access. . . 

Tractor industry remains optimistic for 2021:

The tractor sales industry finished 2020 on a strong note with December sales up 18.4 % on 2019.

Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA) president Kyle Baxter says that while 2020 definitely posed challenges for the industry, the current mood of members is positive.

Overall tractor sales for 2020 were down 15.3% compared with 2019, with sales for the bigger machines (375+ HP) particularly affected with a drop of 25%. . . 

Dairy markets stable despite Covid challenges – Carlene Dowie:

Global dairy markets appear to be weathering the COVID-19 storm with prices stable despite pandemic-induced changes in demand in key markets.

The Australian Milk Value Portal’s latest Global Dairy Update says resilience in demand for dairy products is underpinning the market.

International analysts are also pointing to stability – with ANZ in New Zealand last week lifting its forecast farmgate price there by 7.5 per cent while the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s dairy price index jumped for the seventh month in a row in December.

The Milk Value Portal’s Nanna Moller said the market outlook was mostly bullish, despite differences in global markets, with slowing growth in milk supply in Europe and Oceania and sustained demand for consumer staples. . . 


Rural round-up

22/10/2020

Drought fears for South Canterbury, North Otago farmers – Maja Burry, Eleisha Foon:

South Canterbury and North Otago farmers are concerned they are on the precipice of a drought.

NIWA’s latest hotspot report showed the driest soils in the South Island and both winter and spring had so far failed to deliver meaningful rain.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said the Waimate and Waitaki districts had received little rain since autumn and pasture covers are low for this time of year.

MPI’s rural communities and farming support director, Nick Story, said farmers were feeding out grain, destocking and looking for alternative grazing. . . 

Wildlife rules for private land queried by owners and businesses – Farah Hancock:

A policy aimed at protecting indigenous wildlife, which has struggled to gain consensus, is on its final dash to the finish line. Public support is strong, but landowners and industry still have concerns

The National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, which will force councils to identify significant natural areas, including on private land, is hoped to improve the outlook for New Zealand’s 4000 threatened species

Not all are happy with the proposed policy, with submissions expressing concern about how areas on private land will be identified, and the impact on private landowners’ ability to use their land. . . .

 

Watermelon shortage predicted as biosecurity concerns hold up Tongan supply – Maja

Supermarket shelves could soon run dry of watermelons with all import channels for the fruit currently closed due to biosecurity concerns.

Imports of the fruit from Tonga were halted last week after live fruit fly larvae were detected at the New Zealand border on a consignment of watermelons from the country.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said there would now be an investigation into the non-compliance by the Ministry of Agriculture Food, Forestry and Fisheries in Tonga.

“Until the suspension is lifted, all consignments of watermelons from Tonga arriving at New Zealand’s border will be held with the option of destruction or re-shipment in accordance with the Import Health Standard,” MPI said in a statement. . . 

Green lipped mussels are becoming heavy lifters – Keith Woodford:

Hatchery technologies and open-sea farms provide the platform for new endeavours with green-lipped mussels

A little over five years ago, I asked the question as to whether green-lipped mussels could be the next heavy lifter for the New Zealand export economy. At the time, the Government had a goal of doubling exports by 2025, which seemed exceedingly optimistic.

Both then and since then I have been frustrated by what I see as naivety within the broader community as to how New Zealand is going to pay its way in a complex and competitive world. There often seems to be unwillingness to grapple with the hard realities of a small isolated country in the South Pacific with a rapidly growing population and increasing inequalities.

I have listened many times to speakers who say that services rather than goods are going to be our salvation. When I ask where within that framework might we find a competitive advantage, I typically hear only generic terms such as ‘technology’   Our two big service industries are tourism and the education of foreign students. . . 

Election 2020, the red tsunami – Elbow Deep:

I had intended to use this month’s column to look back at the three years which have passed since the farmer protests in Morrinsville and determine if a Labour/New Zealand First/Greens Government was as scary as predicted.

Events overtook me and clearly, since Labour won the party vote in all but four electorates, it wasn’t that scary at all.

At the last election farming issues were front and centre in a highly divisive campaign that left farmers feeling kicked around like the proverbial political football. At the heart of this division was the proposed water levy, a proposal that didn’t even make it past coalition negotiations, which generated a lot of heat while distracting from the real message David Parker was trying to push; freshwater reform.

This election, in the wake of plummeting tax receipts and a higher than normal reliance on income from agricultural exports, every single political party was courting the farming vote. . . 

Agricultural equipment sector remains positive :

The agricultural equipment sector remains in a positive mood throughout the country says the Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA), which represents the sector in manufacturing, retailing and distribution.

TAMA sales statistics for the year to date (September 30) are down around 18 percent compared with 2019‘s record-breaking year, however indicators remain positive as New Zealand enters the peak of another growing season.

TAMA president Kyle Baxter said despite sales volumes being down in some equipment ranges, members were confident regarding business trading across dealerships and local equipment manufacturing. . . 


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