Rural round-up


Business skill vital for farming success – Ali Tocker:

Business skills are crucial to high-performing and profitable farms, new research from DairyNZ shows.

The research covered 150 dairy farms in Waikato and Canterbury, and identified the key characteristics of the top-performing farms.

It took the top quarter of farms surveyed, ranked on operating profit per hectare, and identified their common characteristics.

“It’s not animal husbandry, feed or people management – the biggest skill gap is in the business area,” DairyNZ economist Matthew Newman said. . .

Lamb prices hurting Americans – Gerald Piddock:

New Zealand farmers are not the only lamb producers facing tough times.

North American sheep farmers have had a 40 per cent drop in lamb prices with values now sitting where they were a decade ago, Beef+Lamb North American representative Andrew Burt said.

Mr Burt is back in New Zealand having recently taken up the role of Beef+Lamb’s chief economist.

US lamb producers were forecasting an over-supply of lamb for this coming season he said. . .

Alpaca breeders’ patience pays off – Peter Watson:

You need plenty of patience to breed quality alpacas.

New Zealand herds are invariably small and vary widely in quality, top animals are expensive to buy, females take almost a year to produce an offspring and twins are rare. . .

Apple orchardists on a roll south – Sandra Finny:

With little help from anyone outside of family, orchardists Peter and Danny Bennett are reaping the rewards after nearly six years of battling red tape to bring a lucrative apple growing franchise to South Canterbury.

The Bennetts, who own the established Waipopo Orchard near Temuka, are in expansion mode planting 50,000 apple trees on top of 40,000 they planted three years ago, which are already producing export crops to meet an insatiable demand for their trademark HoneyCrunch apples in US markets.

The apples are a point of difference with Southern hemisphere supply being market-led not producer-driven. . .

Unlocking the perfect sheep:

Imagine the perfect sheep; healthy, fertile, and high producing, with meat of unsurpassed eating quality and wool fit for high value markets. This is the sheep that will transform New Zealand’s sheep industry, providing higher returns to growers and elevating the fibre on which much of the New Zealand economy was built to new heights.

With assistance from the government’s Primary Growth Partnership (PGP), The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) is investing in production science initiatives to unlock the potential of this perfect sheep, which will thrive across a range of geographic areas and combine great quality meat and wool traits in the same animal. . .

And an interesting infographic on the difference between natural cheese and processed cheese.

Rural round-up


Shipment of branded lamb sent to Brazil:

Alliance has broken new ground in South America with its first shipment of branded lamb to Brazil.

The shipment, supplied by Southland farms, will arrive in Brazil in the middle of next month.

The lamb will be sold in 120 stores in Brazilo’s biggest city, Sao Paulo, as well as restaurants and hotels. . .

World leading treatment of animals is aim of review:

Federated Farmers will continue to work with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), to ensure New Zealand’s farmers have the highest levels of practicable rules around animal welfare.

“I know good animal welfare pays you back commercially and is why animal welfare legislation and associated codes of welfare matter,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers joint animal welfare spokesperson.

“Federated Farmers is active with the MPI, in ensuring pastoral farmers treat our animals in a humane and ethical way. . .

Government imports 1,205 dairy animals to boost dairy industry:

Two shipments of 1,205 dairy animals from New Zealand arrived in Cagayan de Oro City on June 18 and July 30, 2012, which are now being quarantined at the Feedlot of Del Monte Philippines, Inc. in Manolo, Fortich, Bukidnon.

This is the 13th batch of animal importation spearheaded by the National Dairy Authority (NDA) to dramatically increase dairy production and address the urgent demand for milk and dairy products in the country.  . .

2012 Forest Industry Training Awards:

New Zealand’s forestry sector will need more skilled people over the next decade as technology continues to change, more areas of forest become available for harvest, and the environmental advantages of wood products are increasingly recognised.

Ian Boyd, CEO of the Forest Industry Training and Education Council (FITEC), in releasing the names of finalists for the industry’s 2012 training and education awards, said practically every work discipline is required across the wide range of forest and wood manufacturing operations.

A total of 30 finalists have been selected by independent judges for the 2012 forest industry awards which will be held in Rotorua on September 20. . .

New Zealand Wine: Positioned for the Future:

Wine exports reach $1.18 billion, up 8%Sales (domestic and export) total 242 million litres, up 10%Tight supply means focus on higher priced segmentsNew Zealand wine is well positioned for the future.

Tighter market conditions provide new opportunities for New Zealand wines according to the June year end 2012 Annual Report of New Zealand Winegrowers.

‘The vibrant and distinctive qualities of New Zealand wines continue to resonate with consumers in our key markets. In the past year exports value grew 8% to $1.18 billion and international sales volumes have now lifted 79% since 2008 This strong sales performance combined with a smaller 2012 vintage means a changed supply/demand dynamic for the sector in the year ahead’said Stuart Smith, Chair of New Zealand Winegrowers. . .

Teppanyaki and Wagyu Beef On Menu in Queenstown:

A new Japanese and Teppanyaki restaurant to be launched in Queenstown early next month will also be the home of the highest quality Wagyu Beef available in New Zealand.

Kobe Cuisine will open at Queenstown’s five-star Millbrook Resort, in a building formerly occupied by Japanese restaurant Sala Sala.

Kobe Cuisine director Tony Lee said the combination of traditional Japanese cuisine, Teppanyaki grill, an à la carte Asian menu and the best quality‘fullblood’ Wagyu beef would all combine to offer the“best eating experience in the world”. . .

Cobbers and mates


It’s Australia Day.

Our cobbers and mates (is there a difference between the two?) across the Tasman are celebrating and don’t they do it well?

They have an Australia Day address – this year’s by Associate Professor Charles Teo Am, a first generation Australian.

You can listen to him delivering it and read a transcript at the link above. If you don’t have time for that, at least ponder this which applies just as much to New Zealanders:

. . .  I would like to see this Australia Day as a turning point. I want my fellow Australians, those who were born here and those who have immigrated here, to pause and think of the lives that have been sacrificed for what we take for granted today. I want everyone who finds themselves angry and intolerant to think first about the misfortunes of those who are less fortunate…such as those with cancer. I want anyone who has come from another country to embrace the Australian way of life, it has served us well. I want all Australians to see how immigrants have contributed to our nation and to appreciate that a rich and prosperous country such as ours has a moral and global responsibility to share our resources. . .

They have the Australian of the Year :

The Australian of the Year 2012, Geoffrey Rush, has now celebrated 40 years as an Australian actor, achieving the rare international distinction of the ‘Triple Crown’ – an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy. . .

The Senior Australian of the Year 2012, Laurie Baymarrwangga, is an extraordinary elder from the island of Murrungga in East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. . .

The Young Australian of the Year 2012 is 22 year old engineering advocate Marita Cheng of Brunswick East whose leadership is changing the occupational landscape for women by encouraging girls to pursue engineering studies and careers. . .

Australia’s Local Hero 2012 is foster mother and carer Lynne Sawyers of Darbys Falls. Lynne has shared her home, her family and her love with more than 200 children. For 15 years, she has been on call to care for lost, abused and bewildered children in heartbreaking circumstances. . .

They have family and community celebrations and they have lamb with lambassador Sam Kekovich:

They seem to have a unity we have yet to achieve over celebrating a national day. But they also have a contrary view: see Australia Day/Invasion Day: Unity/Disunity at Larvatus Prodeo.

By-products boom boosts sheep prices


When sheep prices were in the doldrums most of the fingers were pointed at the meat industry.

But meat is only part of the value of sheep and lambs. Until the last couple of seasons it wasn’t just meat prices but returns for by-products like wool, pelts, lanolin which were also low.

In the last couple of years returns from sheep and lambs has been much better, partly because of the increased demand and consequently price of meat but also because of higher demand and prices for the by-products.

Among those is lanolin, the price of which has doubled  as sheep numbers have dropped.

New Zealand Wool Services International (WSI) – one of the country’s  two scour operators – says prices for that product have almost doubled
in the past two years.

WSI chairman Derek Kirke says like wool, the price surge has been  driven by a world supply shortage, due to the drop in sheep numbers.

Tailing hasn’t finished yet but early indications are this year’s lamb tally will be well up on last season’s which was hit by big losses after the September snow.

Not all of those will be sold this season, if feed supply allows it, farmers will hold some stock back to rebuild flocks.

Demand is still expected to remain high although there will be a ceiling to the price.

Lamb is already out of reach of the budget conscious and there will consumer resistance from those with more disposable income if the price gets too much higher.

Will the good prices last?


Last season was the best in a generation for farmers, but there is reasonable confidence that bust won’t follow the boom.

Prices aren’t likely to stay at this year’s highs but Alliance Group expects protein markets to stay strong:

Speaking in Oamaru during the company’s annual series of shareholder/supplier meetings, chief executive Grant Cuff said it was expected 2012 prices to shareholders would remain high for lamb, sheep, cattle and deer.

Indicative pricing was that lamb would remain at $100 plus and sheep at $85 plus, with cattle prices down slightly.

Sheep and beef numbers were stable worldwide, consumption of meat was increasing and there were growing sales in the East.

Uncertainty in Britain, Europe and the USA is concerning but our two most important trading partners, Australia and China, are more stronger.

A free trade deal with India would provide more opportunities.

One of the benefits of new markets in Asia is that they are interested in the cheaper cuts which aren’t popular in our traditional markets.

There’s hogget and there’s hogget


My farmer noticed the price on the lamb rack I’d bought to serve friends for dinner and wasn’t impressed.

I didn’t think to point out that someone who makes a living selling stock shouldn’t complain about the price.

But next time I was at the supermarket I bypassed the lamb in favour of hogget chops which I grilled and served for dinner.

They were so tough I gave up after half a chop. My farmer persevered with one before giving the rest to the dog.

He then looked at the label on the package the meat had come in snorted.

Hoggets are supposed to be one-year old sheep but my farmer spends a lot of time at stock sales and reckons that butchers buy anything from one to three year-olds.

The chops I’d bought were definitely from a sheep at the older end of that range. They would probably have been okay if I’d casseroled them but they were definitely well past grilling.

Still, we both learned from the experience. I won’t grill hogget chops again and he won’t complain about the price of meat I buy.



Look at retailers not producers


Federated Farmers and Fonterra are both pleased that the Commerce Commission has decided it has no basis for a price control inquiry into milk.

However, it’s not ruling out a further inquiry  into how Fonterra sets the price it pays farmers and what it charges other processors.

Sue Chetwin from Consumer is calling for a milk commissioner and  Labour and Green MPs want the Commerce select committee to launch another inquiry.

If they’re doing that, should look at the whole supply chain.

The Commerce Commission report said there was enough retail competition between  two major supermarket chains, dairies, service stations and other retailers.

I’m not so sure about that. Almost everything is more expensive at dairies, service stations and other small retailers. Those are the places you go for emergency supplies, not normal grocery shopping.

That leaves the supermarket duopoly.

It is difficult comparing prices here with those overseas because of the exchange rate and different taxes, but our observation at restaurants and supermarket during our recent trip to the USA and Canada was that food there seemed to be cheaper than it is here.

Some prices in a Walmart in Canada were: beef mince $9.50/kg; T bone $16.22; sirloin $11.10; stir fry $15.06; roast beef $12.06; bacon $10.44; pork tenderloin $10.96; pork chops $8.80.

I don’t have local comparison for these, but a  New Zealand boneless leg  lamb was selling for $14.92/kg  at Walmart, I saw it priced at $29.99/kg at a New World  here yesterday.

A frozen leg of New Zealand lamb was $13.62/kg.

It looked good but beside it were Walmart’s own brand of frozen loin chops selling for $20/kg. The bag was full of ice and had they been a tenth the price we might have contemplated buying them for dog meat.

Eggs were $2.98/dozen; skim milk cost $1.38/litre, full cream milk was $2.77/litre..

Cheddar cheese cost $13.43/kg which, taking the exchange rate into account, wouldn’t be much different form here.

The only thing that was far more expensive – and to our admittedly biased taste buds, not nearly as nice – was ice cream. A small cone cost $5.

Prices recorded at one supermarket and the gut reaction from purchases at other supermarkets and restaurants aren’t much to build a case on.

But our overwhelming impression was that food was cheaper and we wondered how much that had to do with greater competition between supermarkets there in contrast to the duopoly which operates here.

If there’s to be an investigation into food prices it needs to be a thorough one which includes retailers not just producers and processors.

High lamb price cause for celebration not outrage


Phil Goff was reportedly outraged at the price of lamb during his weekend supermarket shop.

“We bought some chops, half a dozen chops – it was 15 bucks for that.”

Shock, horror, after several years of prices which barely covered the price of production, if that, farmers are getting a decent return. That’s coming from the demand for our meat on international markets and those prices are reflected in our supermarkets and butcheries.

The increasing price of food isn’t easy for people on low to middle incomes. But they’re boosting export income which is helping economic growth and that is the only sustainable way to boost jobs and wages.

It’s only three years ago that Federated Farmers’ T150 campaign which set a target of $150 for lambs was considered unrealistic. This season prices have been passing that – getting up to $199 at Temuka last week.

That is a cause for celebration, not outrage. Higher prices for primary produce are the seeds from which our much needed recovery will grow.

Lamb prices bouyant, crop down


The Southland blizzard, spring storms in the North Island and dairy conversions have taken their toll on this season’s lamb crop.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Economic Service announced today after reviewing the provisional half-year lamb slaughter numbers that total lamb production is on track to reach the forecast figure of 19.3 million head for the current season. This season is 7.7 per cent less than the 2009-10 season and is less than the 19.5 million head forecast in the November 2010 Lamb Crop report. This is the lowest lamb slaughter figure since the 1960-61 season.

Supply is down and prices are up and look bouyant for the rest of the season.

Lower global supply, including lower than usual exports from Australia, have led to higher mutton prices with record highs throughout the season even though our export mutton volumes are higher.

 Based on the provisional half-year slaughter numbers, we still expect at least 4 million head of mutton to be processed, which is 9.9 per cent more than last season.” Anecdotal comment suggests farmers are culling the bottom end of their flocks to take advantage of higher mutton prices and this could lift the mutton volume a further 5 per cent (0.2 million). In turn this may have an offset with more lambs kept as replacements lowering the export lamb slaughter by a similar number. Lamb prices for April averaged $116 per head and were up 53 per cent on last year’s $76 per head for the same month. Similarly mutton prices are up 63 per cent on 12 months ago and for April averaged $97 per head.

The last three seasons have been very tough for sheep farmers. This season’s improved returns for lamb and mutton and  are very welcome, especially when pelts and wool are also receiving better prices.

Restaurants should take note of 70g message


The good news is that red meat is good for you  and not linked to heart disease.

A report demolishes the ‘myths and misconceptions’ about the meat, saying that most people eat healthy amounts which are not linked to greater risk of disease.

Modern farming methods have cut fat levels, which can be even lower than chicken, while red meat provides high levels of vital nutrients, including iron.

A vegetarian having a Cheddar cheese salad will eat seven times more fat, pound for pound, than lean red meat contains, says a review by the British Nutrition Foundation.

But findings the World Cancer Foundation isn’t so positive and the report reinforces the message that red meat should be eaten in moderation to reduce the risk of bowel cancer: 

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) . . .  said, ‘Although the evidence is not conclusive, as a precaution, it may be advisable for intakes of red and processed meat not to increase above the current average (70g/day) and for high consumers of red and processed meat (100g/day or more) to reduce their intakes.’

A daily total of 70g is equivalent to about three rashers of bacon

Three rashers of bacon doesn’t sound much but most restaurant servings of meat would be far greater than that and some offer steaks of three, four or more times that weight.

I enjoy lamb, steak and venison but I’m satisfied with smaller servings and often choose fish when I’m dining out because the meat servings are far too big.

It’s what you do most of the time that matters. The odd big serving of meat won’t do any harm and would help with the intake of iron, B vitamins and other nutrients but it would be good if restaurants took note of the recommendation and gave customers the choice of smaller servings.

As a producer of lamb and beef I don’t want to reduce demand. But restaurants might sell a similar total amount by selling more smaller servings to people like me who don’t order big ones.

Bank the gains, budget conservatively


When was the last time prices for lamb, wool, beef, milk and grain were all reasonable at the same time?

I can’t remember.

In the last decade or two if returns for one product was up the rest were usually down.

But this year, in spite of the high dollar, all commodities are receiving better prices.

Even Federated Farmers , is chirpy:

While appreciating commodity prices will be positive for the New Zealand economy, it is only part of the cost equation for goods for all farmers, whether you’re producing cheese or lamb.

“Global commodity prices are up. Whole Milk Powder (WMP) prices have doubled in the last 12 months, and butter is at 20 year highs because of constrained supply,” says Lachlan McKenzie, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“Wool and meat are also showing positive signs and the positive economic contribution of agriculture is benefiting every New Zealander, every day.

“These are sustainable prices because food is the new black. About 70 million people join the human race each year as the global population heads towards 6.9 billion.

“We are seeing strong price signals from the ANZ Commodity Price Index and from Fonterra’s GlobalDairyTrade auction yesterday.  Food is no longer a plentiful low cost good but is now starting to reflect the real cost of production and its scarcity.

Feds is warning there could be volatility ahead and advises farmers to bank the gains and budget conservatively.

If the grapevine in our area can be taken seriously, that is what most are doing. Memories of the crash from peak prices in 2006 are too fresh for anyone sensible to think what comes up can’t go down.

McKenzie also points out that higher prices are only part of the story.

“Farmers don’t get the retail shelf price. We have to meet the full cost of production and input costs are up. Last year dairy famers had on average only 70 cents profit out of the $6.10 milk price left over for debt, taxes and in dividends.

“It’s the compliance costs we have the least control over.  In the past year we’ve had increases in local authority rates, ACC levies and particularly the impact of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) on fuel and electricity.

“Dairy farmers in particular have greater environmental expectations upon them and we have to be in the black to be green,” Mr McKenzie concluded.

Many of those costs are fixed ones which we face regardless of whether prices for our produce are going up or down. We must make hay while the financial sun is shining and this time it isn’t just food that is receiving better prices, fibre is too.

We got $4.80 a kilo for crossbred lambs’ wool last week, sold some more this week and received an extra 20 cents.

My farmer thinks it’s at least 20 years since wool was earning that sort of money.

That’s a very welcome turn around from the last few years when we were lucky if the price paid for wool did anything more than cover the cost of shearing it.

Timber too is finally worth more than the cost of felling the trees.

We’ve got a plantation of pines planted about 30 years ago. Any time we’ve looked at selling the timber in recent years we’ve been told the only market would be fire wood. But now the price has gone up we’re cutting them down, cover the costs of that and replanting and still have a bit left over.

As an investment over 30 years the return wouldn’t be particularly good, but the trees were planted on a steep hillside which wouldn’t have been good for much else anyway.

We could learn from the Aussies


Sometimes I wish we were a bit more like the Aussies.

They could teach us how to celebrate our national day (that’s if we had one we could agree on) and how to promote our lamb at the same time:

You’ll find more in a similar vein from Sam Kekovich here.

Wool part of the solution to falling sheep numbers


Beef + Lamb New Zealand ‘s announcement that the lamb drop was more than 10% down on last year’s wasn’t unexpected.

A cold, wet spring took its toll, not only in Southland and South Otago where it snowed in late September, but in the North Island too.

The Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Economic Service’s annual Lamb Crop Survey released today shows the number of lambs tailed was 25.11million head – 2. 8 million less than last spring – and the largest between – season percentage decrease seen in 21 years.

B+LNZ Economic Service Director, Rob Davison says both islands were affected by the cold and wet weather patterns that saw heavy snow fall to sea level in Southland during late September.

“North Island lamb numbers were back 9.5 per cent, while South Island numbers were back by 10.4 per cent.  Any regions where lambing was in full swing in late September were affected.

“Overall, the ewe lambing percentage across the country was 109.6 per cent. That’s 11.9 percentage points lower than last season’s 121.5 per cent – the lowest percentage we’ve seen since the spring of 1995.  While scanning results indicated lambing would be back slightly, it was the prolonged, cold wet weather during spring that was ultimately responsible.”

Lambs from hoggets were up 6.2 per cent on last season – this was partly because hoggets generally lamb later in spring and so largely avoided the adverse weather.  Hogget lambs this spring made up 4.0 per cent of the total lamb crop.

However, Mr Davison says continuing cooler weather, a lack of sunshine and consequent low pasture growth rates mean across the country, lambs are an average of two or three weeks behind where they would normally be at this time.  As a result, early drafts are down in both numbers and average weights.

 This will lead to a decrease in exports, although not by the same percentage.

“We estimate lambs for export will fall 1.4 million (-6.8%) on last season, to 19.5 million.  The reason for the lesser decline than the 2.8 million fall in the lamb crop, is that we predict fewer replacement lambs will be retained this season compared with last season’s high retention.  This season the trade-off will be to keep fewer replacements to generate cash flow.

“With fewer lambs to finish, average weights are expected to be up 1 per cent on last year to 17.8 kg which would make this the highest on record.  The prediction is that farmers will draft as many lambs as possible early to take advantage of the new season lamb schedule prices, then hold off until later in the season, opting to produce heavier weights to maximise per head prices – while at the same time hoping for a decrease in the New Zealand dollar by later in the season.

“Last season’s mid-November lambs were realising $5 to $5.20 per kilogram. This season, we’re ahead of those levels, around $6.10 to $6.30 per kilogram.”

Mr Davison says an active store market has already appeared, driven partly by fewer lamb numbers, but also concerns that the current La Nina weather pattern could deliver a dry summer across the country.

Farmers, and their financiers, will welcome the improved prices but the decreased numbers of lambs will put more pressure on the meat companies which were already regarded as having too much killing capacity.

However, falling numbers provide an insecure foundation  for higher prices. A stronger base requires better prices not just for meat but for wool and other by-products as well.

Wool Partners Co-operative  is offering an opportunity to for better returns from fibre, but it requires 50% of the wool clip to get under way. If it doesn’t get enough support the first realistic opporunity in years for improved returns from wool will be lost and that will be a blow to not only the wool industry but the meat industry too.

The full Lamb Crop 2010 survey is here.

Stock shortages bad for freezing workers, better prices for farmers


The September snow storm in Southland and South Otago aren’t the only cause of stock shortages.

Reports from the North Island show lower than expected lambing percentages and slower growth rates of both feed and stock because of  cold weather.

Straight Furrow (online here next week) predicts the worst season ever for meatworkers.

However, the shortage of stock and high demand for lamb overseas should mean farmers get better prices.

The ODT reports:*

Weaning hasn’t even started and meat companies and stock agents are engaged in a savage procurement war which has pushed the price of store lambs to over $70 and old ewes to $80.

. . . In September, Beef and Lamb New Zealand forecast a 17.4kg prime lamb would be worth $82 this season, the same as last season’s return, but given the extreme store lamb price and the impact of the storm there is speculation this year’s price could be pushed towards $100.

The high dollar will erode some of the gains of higher prices but it would be a lot worse to have the dollar high and demand and prices low.

Alliance Group reported an operating surplus of $29.6 million from a turnover of $1.4 billion for the year ending September 30. It will be distributing a pool of $12.6 million to shareholders and a 5% fully imputed dividend.

It has no debt and is in a strong position to weather the stormy season ahead.

Silver Fern Farms has yet to make its annual report public.

* In case you’re wondering that is my farmer who’s quoted later in the report.

Meat demand to double


For several years sheep and beef returns have been well below those from dairying.

Last season meat prices were higher and dairy prices were lower but this season meat’s down again and dairying has regained a fair bit of ground.

There is however, hope for all food producers in an article in The Economist:

Between now and 2050 the world’s population will rise by a third, but demand for agricultural goods will rise by 70% and demand for meat will double. These increases are in a sense good news in that they are a result of rising wealth in poor and middle-income countries. But they will have to happen without farmers clearing large amounts of new land (there is some scope for expansion, but not much) or using up lots more water (in parts of the world, water supplies are stretched to their limit or beyond).

Dr David Hughes, Emeritus professor of food marketing at Imperial College London, who was here last month, pointed out that most people in the emerging markets don’t eat much red meat.

That provides us with the challenge of introducing the delights of beef and lamb to people more accustomed to eating fish and chicken.

It may not be easy, but if meat and three veg New Zealanders can be converted to sushi and other once exotic foods, surely it’s not impossible to convince people in other countries to enjoy our meat.

Hat Tip: Inquiring Mind.

SFF $43.6m profit


Silver Fern Farms finished the year to August with a net profit of $43.6m, which included a $37m settlement from PGG Wrightson.

Chair Eion Garden said:

Shareholders should be pleased the company comes out of the past year in a vastly stronger financial position than recent years. “This is no mean achievement given the current economic environment which has had severe impacts on many businesses and sectors.”

It hasn’t been an easy year for meat companies and the new season isn’t expected to be any better. However, SFF is getting rewards for the work it’s put in to its marketing plan.

It secured the right to sell branded chilled lamb in French supermarkets and Stuff reports the company will be selling branded lamb in New Zealand supermarkets next month.

It is a departure for each of the local chains, Progressive and Foodstuffs, who cut and package red meat under their own brands.

From November 16, Silver Fern’s small leg roasts, loin fillets, boneless rumps and lamb stir-fry will be on the shelves. This will be premium product, reliably lean and tasty, and will be priced accordingly.

 For all the fame of our lamb, it isn’t easy to find good quality cuts in local supermarkets.

This is very good news for home cooks and should improve the image of lamb in New Zealand.

SFF offer undersubscribed


Silver Fern Farms rights issue raised about $21 million.

The company’s putting a positive spin on it but that’s less than half what they were hoping for.

However, there is no cause for panic. SFF still has the support of its bankers for which we can be grateful because the industry needs financially stable companies.

And SFF had a good news story when it launched consumer-ready chill packs in French supermarkets last week.

Chief executive Keith Cooper said:

‘It’s a first for New Zealand chilled lamb and a first for Intermarche… Small single muscle leg roasts, boneless rumps, French racks, and lamb stir fry are a new generation of products aimed at smaller households who still want the exquisite flavour of lamb without having to visit a restaurant to ensure a superb meal experience.’

Demand for lamb internationally is holding up but it won’t be an easy season for meat companies or farmers.

The high dollar is eroding returns, lamb is expected to earn $1 a kilo less than last season. That means we can expect about $70 for a lamb which would have earned about $85 to $90 a year ago.



It would be doing Peck a disservice to call it a food store.

Better to quote Lonely Planet which calls it one of Europe’s most prestigious gourmet food outlets.

Nearly three weeks after we visited Milan’s gastronomic paradise my mouth still waters at the memory of the quantity and quality of produce on display.

We gazed in eye-widened wonder at the variety of cheese – they sell more than 3000 varieties of parmigiano reggiano; fruit from every corner of the world amongst which was New Zealand kiwifruit; pasta, fresh and dried, with an amazing array of sauces and seasonings to serve with it; fresh sea food and meat; a tea bar; ice cream and a wine cellar which boasted the best in the world, and that too included a few bottles from New Zealand. . .

We lunched in the cafe on the first floor – five star service, five star plus food at very reasonable prices.

I chose the ravioli for which Peck is justifiably renowned. It was stuffed with ricotta and spinach, cooked to perfection and tasted sensational.

Amazing as all that was, the display which stood out for us was the meat among which was a lamb rack selling for an eye-watering 85 euro a kilo.

The butcher told us it was French. Imagine what it would do for the economy if New Zealand lamb could attract that sort of premium.



Fewer ewes but more lambs expected


It’s less than 20 years since New Zealanders had more than 20 sheep each – there more around 70 million sheep and only 3 million people.

The human population has risen to more than 4 million and the ovine population is now around half what it was at its peak so we now have fewer than 8 sheep each.

Meat and Wool New Zealand’s latest survey  records a total sheep population of just 33.14 million.

The ewe population has dropped 3.4% in the past year to 22.7 million, the lowest since 1951-52. The number of hoggets dropped 2% to 9.4 million.

The decline in numbers was casued by drought and dairy conversions. But in spite of fewer ewes and hoggets this season’s lamb crop is expected to increase 2.1% to 27.81 million.

Beef cattle numbers also dropped. There were 40.7 million of them at the end of June, 1.7% fewer than last year.

The fall in numbers while demand for lamb remains firm should give farmers reasonable prices this season.

But price rises based on falling supply aren’t nearly as good for the long term health of the meat industry as those based on increased demand.

Falling numbers will also focus attention on the problem of excess capacity at freezing works.

La Brasa de Sancho



The personality of the owner, a Frenchman, first attracted us to La Brasa de Sancho  in Vejer de la Frontera.

He and his Spanish wife welcome customers as friends and carry on treating them that way.

Their welcome is complemented by good, fresh food, cooked and presented simply. It’s served by friendly, attentive staff  and all of that has made us repeat customers.

Dishes on the menu include:

Lamb kebab:

brasa 4

Tuna Steak

brasa 2

And marmitas de mejillones – casserole of mussels which are smaller and more tender than the green lipped variety we get in New Zealand.


P.S. Apropos of happy dining experiences, Brian Edwards has a post on good service.

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