Too much weather

December 3, 2014

Southern contractors are struggling in wet and cold weather:

The dreadfully wet season being experienced in the southern part of the country is leaving many rural contractors and farmers under huge pressure and stress, claims Rural Contractors NZ.

 RCNZ vice president and Southland-based contractor David Kean says there are reports of contractors not being able to get work done, struggling with their finances and some having to lay staff off.

“Many contractors are really feeling it and the stress is starting to tell on both them and their businesses. Our advice is simple: ask for help and talk to the appropriate agencies before things get out of hand,” he explains.

Meanwhile, there’s the opposite problem in Canterbury – which has had lots of strong, cold Norwest winds and very little rain over the past couple of months – meaning there is very little work to do now after a busy start to the season. 

Mr Kean says if rural contractors are struggling to pay bills and/or staff they should be in contact with both Work and Income NZ and the IRD for assistance and advice.

“It is far better for people to be proactive; admit they have issues to deal with and seek the appropriate help – rather than just bottling it up or letting any problems get out of hand.

“Both IRD and WINZ are there to provide help in these kinds of situations and they have the people and expertise to offer advice and assistance.”

Mr Kean says Rural Contractors NZ is also there to help members and to act as support network for contractors who are feeling under pressure.

“However, we are not experts in financial matters or if people are coming under mental duress,” he adds.

“We are telling people they should be talking with their accountants and financial advisors about their business and with their families and medical professionals if they are under pressure themselves.”

The chair of the Rural Health Alliance Aoteoroa NZ (RHAANZ) Dr Jo Scott-Jones agrees.

“We know rural people tend to delay seeking help until they can no longer work, but it is true that a ‘stitch in time saves nine’”, Dr Scott-Jones says.  “Talking to a GP or practice nurse about stress seems to cause people difficulty. But anyone in this situation should know it is never as hard as you think and the benefits that flow from sharing some of the burden and talking through the way you feel can be enormous.”  

 Mr Kean adds that talking with professionals, as well as family and friends is an important step in getting the proper advice and help – when and where it is needed.

“Farmers also need to be aware of the pressure contractors are under and have to be realistic about getting work done,” he adds. “The last couple of months have been so wet that even if the weather cleared today it is going to take a long time to clear the back log of work and get everyone caught up again.”

Further north it was too wet in winter and now it’s too dry:

Weeks of persistent wind with little rain are putting farmers on edge in eastern areas of the country, from Gisborne to Canterbury.

Federated Farmers Gisborne Wairoa president Sandra Faulkner said soil moisture levels in that region were well down on normal for the time of year. . .

We didn’t really have a summer last year then had a very wet start to winter but we’ve had little significant rain since July and there’s all the signs of a looming drought.

That doesn’t mean we’re having good weather, it’s still cold which is slowing pasture growth and potato crops.

In contrast, a wet winter, less sunlight and cooler temperatures are being blamed for hampering potato crops and creating a shortage of the vegetable.

Potatoes New Zealand said there was more demand than growers could supply and that was having a flow on effect on companies such as potato chip processors.

Chief executive Champak Mehta said none of the previous season’s crops were left in storage and the new season’s potatoes were taking longer to hit the shelves. . .

North Otago is justly famed for its new potatoes but picking started only a week or so ago.

We didn’t plant ours in the garden until after labour weekend and they’re still a good couple of weeks ago from giving us anything to pick.

But I bought a box of Rare Earth  Jersey Bennes at the Oamaru Farmers’ Market on Sunday – they were delicious.


Rural round-up

August 19, 2013

Growing good apps to protect crops:

Smartphones that respond to signals from plants? Laptops that co-ordinate irrigation at dozens of vineyards? Remote weather stations programmed to text frost alerts?

Many commercial growers are using laptops, tablets or smartphones to keep costs down and production up. Home gardeners too, if they can afford it.

Apps may get more attention but they’re small potatoes compared with the software and online programs already at work or being tested for horticultural use. Simply scanning a monitor or applying a few keystrokes can save water and fuel, redirect a labour force or protect a crop. . .

New role fulfils rural passion – Sally Rae:

Kim Reilly recalls how she was a ”ridiculous tomboy”, growing up in a farming family on the Taieri Plains, – so it was no surprise that she pursued a career in the rural sector.

Dunedin-based Mrs Reilly (41), a senior policy adviser for Federated Farmers, has taken over from Matt Harcombe as regional policy manager South Island, following his move to the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Working for the rural lobby organisation provided her with the challenge of utilising her tertiary qualifications, while also maintaining her passion for the rural lifestyle and a firm belief in the importance of farming. . .

Unmanned aerial vehicle monitors river pollution – Laura Macdonald:

A Wairarapa farmer’s developing an unmanned aerial vehicle that can be programmed to fly remotely to take video of the state of our rivers.

It’s being tested with the help of Victoria University in the hope it’ll be used by regional councils trying to get to grips with the problem of polluted waterways.

An unmanned aerial vehicle is the last tool in the effort to monitor New Zealand’s fresh water. It’s being test flown in the Wairarapa over the Muir family farm.

“We don’t actually see a lot of what is going on in the back country of New Zealand, and with this we can actually see it,” says farmer James Muir. . .

Making money on dairy futures – post botulism – Michael Field:

Fonterra’s botulism scare may have scared people off buying milk powder and knocked New Zealand’s international trade, but it may have helped financial traders making money off it.

Two years ago, the New Zealand stock exchange launched a futures trading market for milk powder.

NZX Dairy Futures notched up a record trading month last month, and this week – just as Fonterra executive Gary Romano resigned over the botulism scandal – it had a record trading day. . . .

Bold dairy comeback – Murray Robertson:

DAIRY farming will make a big comeback to the Gisborne-East Coast district if a bold new move by landowner partners in the new Ata Milk brand comes to fruition.

The man spearheading the Ata Milk concept, Dr Hugh Jellie, said it’s about “taking the region back to the future”.

He has been working on the project for 10 years.

Dr Jellie and his partner Sheryl Andersen moved to Gisborne from the Bay of Plenty six months ago.

“To get this community project off the ground, it’s important to be part of the community.” . . .

Wineries suffer further damage from latest quake:

Marlborough wineries have suffered more losses and damage from Friday’s magnitude 6.6 earthquake than they did from the 21 July event.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens says a number of wineries in the region closed after the big quake struck on Friday afternoon and structural engineers will be assessing the damage during the week.

He says there has probably been some wine loss, although how much is not really known at this stage.

“I think a number of the tanks, the way they behave would have spilt wine out the top … and those wine losses are financial losses as well.” . . .

Science award winner values time at Invermay – Sally Rae:

George Davis, who spent decades working at Invermay, has been acknowledged by the sheep industry for his contribution to sheep industry science.

Now retired, Dr Davis received the Silver Fern Farms sheep industry science award at the second annual Beef and Lamb New Zealand sheep industry awards in Invercargill last week.

It was both a very nice occasion and a nice surprise to receive the award and it was also special to be recognised by the industry, Dr Davis said.

The award acknowledged his contribution to New Zealand’s significant international profile in sheep genomics research. . .

What is a new potato? New guidelines issued:

A complaint to trading standards officers in Scotland has led to an industry body issuing a new description of what constitutes a “new potato”.

South Ayrshire Council was asked to investigate whether new potatoes were stored for long periods before sale.

It found that in some cases newly-harvested potatoes were stored for up to seven months before being sold.

The Potato Council has now drawn up an industry standard definition after the council raised its concerns.

The traditional description of a new potato is that it has been specially grown and harvested early, with a thin skin or one you can rub off with a finger. . .


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