Meat impasse caused by paper work mistake

23/05/2013

The impasse over New Zealand meat on Chinese wharves has been resolved.

A resolution has been agreed which should see authorities clearing New Zealand meat exports to China from next week, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced.

“Chinese authorities have agreed they will begin releasing consignments under the name of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.

“Officials are working around the clock to reissue certificates for all the meat consignments that are held up at ports or on the water.

“This is positive news for farmers and exporters after what has been a frustrating time.

“The Ministry for Primary Industries have now released information on how and why this delay occurred. It provided certification in a format which AQSIQ had not yet approved, and in doing so caused confusion for Chinese inspectors.

“I am very disappointed in the Ministry for Primary Industries for its mistakes in certification which have caused this delay.

“Accurately certifying exports of New Zealand agricultural goods is a core function for the Ministry and this mistake should never have occurred. Officials have a responsibility to meat exporters and to all New Zealanders to get the basic details right. . .

What all this polite language means is there was a stuff-up with the paper work.

“I am grateful to the Chinese authorities for their willingness to work constructively with New Zealand officials to find a way through this administrative error. I am also grateful to the New Zealand meat industry for their patience.

“At the moment our number one priority is ensuring the product gets off the wharf and onto the plates of Chinese consumers as quickly as possible.

“MPI officials have also let themselves down in two further ways: by not informing Ministers of the scale and seriousness of this issue early enough, and in being too slow to provide information on exactly why this problem occurred.

“The Director-General of MPI first informed Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye and I of this issue on Tuesday 14 May. However, the size of this issue was not made clear until I began receiving calls from the meat industry on Friday 17 May.

“After making my own inquiries it became apparent the issue was bigger than what officials had been telling me so I called the officials in for an explanation on Saturday morning.

“I’m disappointed it has taken so long to get to the bottom of this problem and for the Ministry to come up with a proper explanation. This has been frustrating for myself, the public and meat exporters.

“Overall we have a strong system and a mistake like this is highly unusual. I have given the Director-General of MPI clear instructions to ensure this does not happen again,” says Mr Guy.

When there’s a stuff-up it’s important to sort it out, find out why it happened and do everything possible to ensure it doesn’t happen again.


Now they want cheaper meat too

01/04/2011

Complaints over the price of dairy produce are now being matched by moans over the price of meat.

The problem isn’t high prices, it’s low incomes.

The solution is economic growth and you don’t get that by hobbling export industries.


World food price rises good for NZ

07/01/2011

High world food prices are good news for exporters and the New Zealand economy.

The United Nations food price index shows prices for staple food items  – cereals, dairy products,  meat, oils and fats and sugar – in December were higher than the last peak in 2008.

The first auction of the year resulted in a good boost to milk prices,  meat prices are holding up and cropping farmers are getting better returns too.

The floods in Australia are already impacting on grain prices here, although if their milling wheat is downgraded to feed grain that will compete with local produce and counter some of the gains for New Zealand growers.

Flooding of of fruit and sugar cane will also lead to price increases.

In some years the wider economic benefit of  rising prices for one group have been offset by falling prices for another but this time dairy, meat and cropping sectors are all receiving better returns.

Higher export prices will lead to domestic price increases which will put pressure on budgets for those on low incomes. But we’re a food exporting nation and our overall wealth and wellbeing depend on good prices for our produce.


Woman as meat

16/07/2010

Montreal has banned a billboard showing actress Pamela Anderson in a bikini with her body marked as meat cuts.

The ad for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says: “All animals have the same parts. Have a heart. Go vegetarian.”

The overt message is clever. But the subliminal message of woman as meat isn”t.

Would it be any better if it was a bloke?


Export led recovery

29/05/2010

New Zealand was in recession long before the rest of the world.

It didn’t look so bad because the old government was spending lots of our money, but the trading sector was going backwards.

National has been talking about the need for an export led recovery and Statistics NZ shows it’s started

The annual trade balance for the year ended April 2010 was a surplus of $161 million. “This is the first annual trade surplus recorded since July 2002,” added Louise Holmes-Oliver. The trade balance for the April 2010 month was a surplus of $656 million or 16.5 percent of the value of exports. This compares with an average April trade deficit of 0.6 percent of exports for the previous 10 years, with a mix of surpluses and deficits recorded during this period.

And what are the big contributors to that surplus? Dairy products, wood and meat.

Aren’t we pleased we didn’t take any notice of the politicians of  the 1980s when they said farming was a sun set industry?

Oh, and biased as I am, I’m not giving all the credit for this to the government. It doesn’t control the demand or price of our goods on export markets. Nor was it responsible for the recession which dampened demand for imported goods at home.


Vegetarians not so green?

28/02/2010

Vegetables good – meat bad. That’s what we keep being told by people wanting us to save the planet by going vegetarian,

But a study by the World Wildlife Fund has found that the environmental impact of growing some meat substitutes are worse than that from raising animals.

It has often been claimed that avoiding red meat is beneficial to the environment, because it lowers emissions and less land is used to produce alternatives.

But a study by Cranfield University, commissioned by WWF, the environmental group, found a substantial number of meat substitutes – such as soy, chickpeas and lentils – were more harmful to the environment because they were imported into Britain from overseas.

Far be it for me to stick up for anyone advocating we all give up meat, but this is the food miles argument which Lincoln University proved doesn’t necessarily stack up.

How far produce travels is only one factor. Lincoln’s study found New Zealand’s free range meat had a smaller environmental footprint even when transport was accounted for than meat from intensively farmed animals sold on local markets.

The study concluded: “A switch from beef and milk to highly refined livestock product analogues such as tofu could actually increase the quantity of arable land needed to supply the UK.”

The results showed that the amount of foreign land required to produce the substitute products – and the potential destruction of forests to make way for farmland – outweighed the negatives of rearing beef and lamb in the UK.

An increase in vegetarianism could result in the collapse of British farming, the study warned, causing meat production to move overseas where there may be less legal protection of forests and uncultivated land.

Meat substitutes were also found to be highly processed, often requiring large amounts of energy to produce. The study recognised that the environmental merits of vegetarianism depended largely on which types of foods were consumed as an alternative to meat.

It’s good to see an environmental group taking the trouble to investigate claims that vegetarian diets are better for the planet than those which include meat and that the study looked at the economic impact a mass conversion to vegetarianism would have.

This study shows that working out the green credentials of any produce is a complex business and being vegetarian isn’t necessarily better for the environment than eating meat.


Where to with wool?

02/09/2009

Merino has got it right.

By itself or with possum, now renamed paihamu, it is a premium product.

Crossbred wool can’t match that and has been losing ground to synthetics for years.

Too much of the world prefers tiles to carpet. Too many of the parts which do like their floors covered have found cheaper and/or harder wearing alternatives to wool.

Alternative uses have been tried. The stab proof, fire proof vest and insulation both have promise but have yet to make enough traction to improve the value of crossbred wool.

The fibre pushes the right buttons for the environmentally concerned times: it’s a natural product and it’s renewable.

But in spite of that prices are so low the return barely covers the costs of shearing.

Frustration over that is no doubt part of the reason behind the vote against paying levies on wool to Meat and Wool New Zealand.

The organisation may well become Meat New Zealand now it’s lost farmers’ funding for its wool related activities but the loss of half its name is the least of its worries.

Loss of funding for wool research means the budget for meat research will have to go further. Some studies, in genetics for instance, would have been funded from both the meat and wool levies.

Another valuable resource paid for by the wool levy was shearer training. It might be possible for some of the people who did that to set up a separate business and continue the service, but it will be more difficult than it was under M&W’s umbrella with AgITO funding.

Sheep returns made a much-needed recovery last season when the price paid by meat companies went up. A shortage of stock here and overseas is expected to keep this season’s price at a reasonable level but the industry can’t afford to stand still.

Research and education in both meat and wool are still needed. Meat and Wool still has a mandate, and funding, to undertake industry-good activities for meat, but who’s going to do the work for wool?


Halal cert row religion or non tariff barrier?

11/06/2009

New Zealand’s $600 million trade in meat and dairy products is threatened by Indonesia’s October 1 deadline for New Zealand to provide satisfactory halal certification.

Without the certification meat and dairy products won’t  be able to be exported to Indonesia.

Is this about religion or is it a non-tariff barrier?


Ag outlook brighter than other sectors

28/03/2009

The outlook for agriculture is brighter, or at least less gloomy, than for most other sectors according to the EU Prospects for Agricultural Markets  which covers the period from 2008 to 2015.

 The global financial crisis will have an impact in the short term but the medium outlook is more positive with a gradual recovery in commodity prices and:

  • the growth in global food demand,
  • the development of the biofuel sector and the
  • long-term decline in food crop productivity growth.

 The report points to lower production of milk and meat in the EU which means less competition for New Zealand produce. 

While yesterday’s announcement that our gross domestic product declined .9%  in the December quarter is sobering, agriculture outperformed other sectors:

SNZ said primary industry activity increased 1.6 percent in the December quarter, while activity in goods producing industries fell 3.6 percent.

A rise in agriculture production was mainly driven by increased dairy production. For the December year activity in primary industries increased 0.9 percent, compared to an increase of 3.6 percent for the year to December 2007.

 The role meat and milk will play in our economic recovery was noted by AgResearch chief executive Andy West when he stressed the importance of research and development.

He cautions that R&D spend should not be curtailed as credit facilities dry up around the world.

While he doesn’t see any evidence of a decline in pastoral R&D spend in New Zealand, he agrees that it has come under pressure during the economic crisis.

. . . It is the single most important sector that will help us get out of the economic crisis,’ he told Rural News. ‘We have to export our way out and the dairy and meat sectors need all the assistance they can get.’

If the South Island field days are anything to go by, agriculture is not just the most important, it’s also one of the most positive sectors.

The Press reports that opening day numbers were up and while farmers were showing caution, they weren’t mentioning the r word.

And TV3 said that  recession was a dirty word among the farmers they spoke to.

It’s possible they only interviewed the optimists. No-one is saying that farming is booming, but the mood in the paddocks does seem to be more cautious than depressed and the EU forecast suggests a brighter outlook in the medium term.

Hat Tip: Phil Clarke’s Business Blog


NZ’s eco footprint 6th biggest

29/10/2008

WWF reckons New Zealand has the 6th biggest ecological footprint  in the world.

The WWF calculations include carbon emissions from the production of imported goods and services and shows that Kiwis’ use of natural resources is excessive.

Do most of those carbon emissions come from animals?

And do these natural resources include the water and grass for the animals which produce the milk and meat to feed to people in countries which aren’t able to produce their own as efficiently – in environmental and economic terms – as we do?

And if so, how do we go about reducing our ecological footprint without ruining our economy; increasing ecological footprints in other countries who increase their production to compensate for the reduction in ours; and adding to the world wide shortage of food?


Grain Price Rises Pushes Food Prices Up

12/07/2008

Good news for producers is bad news for consumers because rising international prices for grain will push domestic food prices up again.

Bread prices are predicted to rise 10c a loaf and pork and bacon prices $2 to $3 a kg.

Food producers face new grain contracts – $100 a tonne, or 30%, higher than last year.

Farmers say contracts for next season’s harvest, which are about to be signed, reflected those higher prices.

Pig and poultry producers say price rises are inevitable to cover higher feed costs.

Foodstuffs (South Island) chief executive Steve Anderson agrees, and warns costs will continue to increase across the board.

He could not quantify the size of any increase, saying that was up to suppliers, but he doubted there would be any price correction in the immediate future.

“We’re not planning on seeing a reduction in commodity prices in general.”

The price for meat and wool is also driven by the price of grain and that in turn is driven by the price of energy. The combined shortage of food and high fuel prices will push the price of all food up.

Grain prices were so volatile, milling wheat growers were not signing contracts at $500 a tonne, claiming the price was still $100 a tonne below the international price and higher-yielding feed wheat.

“It is a rising market. On a falling market, everyone would be signing,” Federated Farmers grains council chairman Ian Morten said.

Demand from dairy farmers had also driven up cereal prices. Growers have been encouraged to plant higher-yielding feed varieties instead of milling wheat, which gave them leverage against the mills.

Grain growers had this year resumed exporting to take advantage of higher international spot prices, something they had not done for many years, which reduced the availability of domestically-grown cereals.

On top of this is the competition for land from the misguided policy which changes land use from producing food for people to the production of fuel for vehicles.

Farmers and food producers also blamed Solid Energy for higher prices, as it has contracted 5000ha of predominantly cropping land to grow oilseed rape for biodiesel production this year.

Solid Energy plans to increase that production to between 20,000ha and 25,000ha within three years.

Mainland Poultry chief executive Michael Guthrie said international issues had driven grain prices up 80% for his egg business in the past 18 months.

Drought in Australia had decimated world grain production; there had been floods and biofuel production in the United States; growing demand for grain from China and India; low world grain stocks; and dairying had taken over cropping land in New Zealand.

Mr Guthrie said egg prices had been stable for the past two years. He expected prices to rise, but could not say by how much.

Pork Industry Board chairman Chris Trengrove said New Zealand was six months behind the rest of the world on feeling the impact of higher grain prices.

Pork and bacon prices would need to increase about $1 a kg to the farmer to cover rising costs, which translated to between $2 to $3 a kg to the consumer.

Production and transport costs are also rising for fruit and vegetables and that too will impact on retail prices.

Repeated competition from rabbits persuaded me to abandon my vegetable garden but now it has been securely fenced this seems like a good time to get it ready for spring planting.


ETS for agriculture is economic stupidity

30/06/2008

David Bellamy’s biological arguments for excluding agriculture from the Emissions Trading Scheme (see post below) are complemented by economic arguments from Muriel Newman:

The primary sector remains the backbone of New Zealand’s prosperity. Last year it earned 47 percent of the country’s export returns of $35 billion. Dairying was the single biggest export earner with receipts of $7.5 billion, or 21.6 percent of the total. Meat exports ranked second with $4.3 billion or 12.4 percent. In third place, wood exports were worth $2.1 billion, or 6 percent.

The primary sector exports around 90 percent of all of the food produced in New Zealand. This is in sharp contrast to Australia, which only exports a quarter of its food production. An estimated 40 percent of New Zealanders are employed in the food industry.

New Zealand’s prosperity has, of course, always been dependent on farming…

That’s why it is incomprehensible that a New Zealand parliamentary party is undermining the farming sector. The Green Party should be ashamed of itself for blaming farmers for increasing food prices, when farmers, like everyone other New Zealander, are facing rising costs caused by increasing fuel and power prices, higher mortgages, and an escalation in rates and other government charges.

In fact, it is Green Party policies like biofuels, emissions trading schemes, and an over-reliance on solar and windpower that are the cause of much of the cost pressure increases that are occurring in New Zealand and around the world. That is why their call for an inquiry into supermarket pricing smacks of hypocrisy and political game-playing – especially in light of their opposition to the government’s proposal to delay the entry of farming into the emissions trading scheme.

Absolutely right. They don’t appear to understand that if it costs more to produce food it will cost more to buy it.

The government has estimated that at a conservative price for carbon of $50 a tonne, under their proposed emissions trading scheme agricultural payouts will fall by 12 percent for dairying, 21 percent for beef, 34 percent for sheep and 43 percent for venison. 

Anyone who has even the most rudimentary understanding of our economy will realise that these charges will not only ruin the viability of the farming sector and cause food prices to escalate to unprecedented levels, but will further undermine the wealth of all New Zealanders.

Why would any government commit to something which will be hugely expensive, damage the economy and do nothing for the environment. It is economic and political madness to impose such high costs for no benefit.


Maori Party want ag in ETS earlier

29/06/2008

Tariana Turia said in an Agenda interview that the Maori Party wants agriculture brought in to the emissions Trading Scheme earlier than requried by legislation before parliament at the moment.

Has she considered the impact of that on Maori farmers, farm workers, rural contractors, shearers and freezing workers; and the impact of higher prices  which would follow for Maori who buy dairy products, meat and wool?


Meat & Dairy Boost Manufacturing Stats

16/06/2008

The positive influence of primary production is evident in the latest manufacturing statistics from Stats NZ.

 Seasonally adjusted manufacturing sales volumes were up just 0.2 percent, during the March 2008 quarter but without meat and dairy product manufacturing industry, volumes decreased 1.4 percent.

The meat and dairy product manufacturing industry seasonally adjusted sales volumes rose 5.0 percent ($181 million) in the first three months this year while wood product manufacturing decreased 4.7 percent ($48 million), furniture and other manufacturing was down 11.0 percent ($46 million), and transport equipment manufacturing fell 6.3 percent ($36 million).

Seasonally adjusted manufacturing sales increased 3.7 percent, reflecting the contribution of increased prices. This is the third largest increase since the series began, and was dominated by the manufacturing of meat and dairy products, which rose 13.0 percent.

This follows the record 26.2 percent rise in the December 2007 quarter. Excluding this sector however, seasonally adjusted manufacturing sales decreased by 0.1 percent.
The total manufacturing sales trend continues to record general increases, however it has been stronger in the past year, up 12.8 percent, because of the influence of the manufacturing of meat and dairy produce.


Emotion Beats Facts

14/06/2008

We pride ourselves on our agricultural efficiency but I have yet to see anything here to rival a small farming cooperative on the outskirts of Sorrento, in Italy, when it comes to using every square centimetre of land.

 

Eleven families pooled their small, uneconomic units to form a four hectare farm. Their main crops are lemons and olives. They plant olive trees between the rows of lemons and the olives grow taller so their fruit is above the shade of the citrus trees’ leaves.  Some of the trees were grafted so they produced oranges and lemons from the same trunk to diversify production without taking up any more space. They grew grape vines along the outside rows of trees too. The farm also kept four pigs and three cows – all of which were housed inside; and in a bid for both self-sufficiency and organic production, their manure provided the fertiliser for the orchard.

 

The farm produced its own olive oil, and made cheeses, wine and limoncello. It also welcomed tourists to walk through the orchard, inspect the olive press, watch the cheese making, taste their produce and of course buy it. Our guide didn’t talk about budgets or bottom lines, but the cooperative looked prosperous and if the slick operation of the tour and size of the farm shop, where the visit ended, were anything to go by then tourism made an important contribution to the income.

 

The main emphasis of the tour was horticulture and only passing reference was made to the stock, but as we passed them I wondered about the quality of life for animals which are housed inside all year round. This thought was reinforced by an article headlined “The Ethics of eating Meat” which I read in a Bangkok newspaper on the way home.

 

The author argued it was unethical to eat meat because of the environmental cost of growing and harvesting feed for animals raised on feedlots, although he had no problem with pasture-grazed stock. He didn’t mention welfare issues but I remember looking at cattle standing on concrete under mid summer sun in both the United States and Argentina and wondering how happy they were. Those who knew more about animals than I do, assured me that their demeanour, health and condition indicated they were quite content, and pointed out that there was shade available which the stock chose not to make use of.

 

 

I couldn’t argue with that, but I still felt something was wrong and in matters like this science takes second place to sentiment. I remembered that when we passed a herd of cows standing in the mud on a cold, wet day as we drove from Queenstown to Dipton. It was obvious they were being break-fed and were about to be shifted which I know gives animals better quality grazing, does less damage to soil structure and is a more efficient use of pasture than letting them roam the whole paddock at once. But anyone who knew nothing about our farming practices, and on this prime tourist route there would be many of them, would have seen abject misery. That is not the picture we want them to recall when next they see our meat in their supermarket chiller.

Efficiency of production and quality of produce will count for nothing if customers think our practices are unethical; and arguments to the contrary will be worthless because emotion beats facts in marketing.


Meat Prices Going Up

10/06/2008

Westpac economists  predict rising prices for meat.

Lamb prices in the UK have gone up 34% in the past year and in the US beef prices have risen $21%.

Drought and dairy conversions have lowered the number of breeding sheep here and drought in Australia has also lowered the supply of lamb in international markets.

“We expect stronger world prices and forecast farmgate lamb prices to average 439c/kg over the 2008/09 season, up from an estimated 383 c/kg this season,” the bank’s economists said.

This included an average exchange rate for the NZ dollar of 0.37 pence against the pound sterling, and 0.49 euros against the EU currency through the 2008/09 season. Beef prices are also expected to rise.

“We forecast NZ bull beef prices to average 336c/kg over the 2008/09 season, up from an estimated 316c/kg this season,” the economists said.

I haven’t noticed the price of meat in supermarkets matching the low prices farmers have been receiving in the last couple of years. But rising international prices will impact on domestic prices – and what’s the bet some misguided person or party then starts calling for subsidies. 


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