Rural round-up

08/04/2020

It’s okay to not be okay – Jamie Mackay:

 A recent personal tragedy has made The Country host Jamie Mackay reconsider his stance on mental health.

I’m ashamed to admit it, especially as there is a history of mental illness in my own family, but until relatively recently I was a bit blasé about mental health.

Back when my grandmother was a young mother under considerable stress raising six kids, she had what was at that time called ‘a breakdown’. She was sent off to a mental institution (as they were known then) three hour’s drive away.

We were often packed into the car when my father went to visit her, but we were never able to see her. She lived until I was 16 years of age, but I never met her. As a family we never talked about her, other than to acknowledge that she was institutionalised. . . 

Rural sector vital to recovery, despite confidence dip – David Anderson:

COVID-19 is negatively impacting New Zealand’s rural sector confidence.

The declining confidence comes as the country’s primary industries prepare to shoulder some of the heavy lifting for economic and social recovery, claims specialist rural bank Rabobank.

New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris says the bank’s latest rural confidence survey shines a light on the psyche of farmers at a critical time for the nation.

“The food and agri sectors will be crucial in helping to rebuild the New Zealand economy and Rabobank continues to have a strong positive long-term view of the sector outlook,” he says.  . .

Fruit, wine industries respond to coronavirus with vintage Kiwi adaptability – Georgia-May Gilbertson:

Kiwis are stepping in to cover a shortage of backpackers and overseas seasonal workers in the fruit and wine industries.  

For the last few years the kiwifruit industry has experienced a labour shortage when it comes to harvest, but New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) president Nikki Johnson says covid-19 has changed that. 

“The way that our labour situation is laid out is that about 50 per cent are New Zealanders,  25 per cent are working holidays visa workers or backpackers, then 20 per cent are RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) workers,” Johnson said.  . . 

COVID-19: Growing interest in NZ sheepmeat in China – Peter Burke:

Chinese consumers are increasingly positive about New Zealand-produced beef, lamb and mutton in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a social media analysis by Beef + Lamb New Zealand. 

B+LNZ’s market development team says it is monitoring Chinese consumers’ perceptions of the protein market, the perception of protein origin, and the changes in retail channel choice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The red meat grower organisation has published a report summarizing the latest findings, which can be found here:

Click here to view the full report. . . 

Coronavirus: The harvest bubble ‘flogging the wifi’ as hand picking starts to wrap – Jennifer Eder:

Many seasonal workers in Marlborough’s wine industry are also stuck at home on Coronavirus lockdown as hand harvesting of grapes comes to an end.

All non-essential businesses were to close when the country moved to alert level 4 on March 25, but people working in the grape harvest were categorised an essential service as part of food and beverage production.

Many vineyard workers brought into the country on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are approaching the end of their contracts, but cannot fly home during lockdown. . . 

‘Massive disconnect’: Helen Skelton urges public to respect farmers:

Television presenter Helen Skelton has said there is a ‘massive disconnect’ between food producers and the British public.

The BBC presenter, who currently hosts Springtime On The Farm, urged consumers to have greater respect for farmers.

The 36-year-old grew up on a farm herself, and has a ‘huge amount of respect’ for those who produce the nation’s food.

“Now I live on the edge of the city, and there’s a massive disconnect between food producers and the rest of the country,” she said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

14/06/2019

Progress persists amidst disruption – Hugh Stringleman:

The growing focus on food as medicine is driving massive change in the agri-food industry, KPMG agri-food senior manager Emma Wheeler says.

Writing in the 2019 Agribusiness Agenda she said the health and wellness decade has begun and is bringing disruption through innovation and technological transformation.

Consumer needs and demands underpin the pace of change. . .

‘Hyper farm’ to aid land decision-making:

Agresearch has teamed up with Dunedin tech company Animation Research Ltd to help farmers see the future.

The partnership is part of a research programme – the New Zealand Bioeconomy in the Digital Age (NZBIDA) – which has been designed to enable transformational change to the country’s agricultural sector and supply chains.

As one strand of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-funded programme, Dr Seth Laurenson and Dr Remy Lasseur are designing a “hyper farm” using ARL’s world-renowned visualisation technology.

It helped landowners to see what their properties would look like as a result of any changes as well as understand how changes would affect water quality, finances, carbon sequestration and biodiversity among other factors. . .

Feds finds useful policy ideas in National’s paper:

Federated Farmers is heartened that workforce issues are identified as a hot topic in the National Party’s ‘Primary Sector Discussion Document’, released today.

National is proposing better promotion of primary sector careers and increased vocational training opportunities. It is also floating the idea of an Agriculture Visa for migrant workers and nine-month dairy farm placements under an expanded RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme.

“Picking up on serious and persistent sector concerns, National also says it wants feedback on how to make Immigration NZ more responsive and accessible to employers facing labour shortages,” Federated Farmers Dairy chair and immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says. . . 

Fonterra and farm leaders gripe at O’Connor’s DIRA decision – Greenpeace is even more grouchy – Point of Order:

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor didn’t win too many new friends  (and may have lost some) with his  decision  on the review of  the  Dairy Industry Restructuring  Act, the  2001  legislation  which set up  Fonterra  supposedly to   become  a  “ national  champion”.   

We  all know  how  that  has turned out.

So   what were the reactions to  O’Connor’s  latest  move to improve the  legislation  which initially had the  objective of  “promoting  the efficiency  of  NZ  dairy markets”?. .. 

New appointed director for Horticulture New Zealand Board:

Horticulture New Zealand’s Board has appointed Dr Bruce Campbell, of Tai Tokerau Northland, as an appointed director.

Dr Campbell is experienced in governance, innovation, talent development and the future development of a wide range of horticulture sectors and was, until 2018, the Chief Operating Officer at Plant & Food Research. He has a particular interest in building partnerships with Māori to create new food businesses and also in growing career pathways to get talented people into horticulture. . .

Large rise in meat and dairy manufacturing:

The largest rise for five years in volumes of meat and dairy products drove manufacturing up for the second quarter in a row, Stats NZ said.

After adjusting for seasonal effects, the volume of total manufacturing sales rose 2.0 percent in the March 2019 quarter, after a 2.4 percent rise in the December 2018 quarter. It was led by a strong 11 percent rise in meat and dairy products manufacturing. . .

Helping New Zealand farmers take care of our land:

New Zealand’s green reputation is one of this country’s strongest selling points, but how to manage the relationship between farming and the environment is complex and controversial.

How do we support New Zealand farmers transition to a more environmentally friendly and economically sustainable future?

The clamour to act urgently on climate change is adding pressure on farmers to manage environmental sustainability, but farmers often have to make trade-offs between what they want to develop and what’s affordable. . .

 


Rural round-up

13/11/2018

Rural health service gains outlined in plan – John Gibb:

Moves to create a “virtual campus” for rural health training would also  improve health services in New Zealand’s rural towns, including those in Otago, Dr Garry Nixon says.

Dr Nixon, who is University of Otago associate dean rural and works at Dunstan Hospital in Clyde, makes the point in an article on the national “virtual campus proposal”, recently published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

The article’s co-authors include colleagues at Auckland University and AUT. . . 

Dairy farm open day attracts hundreds – John Gibb:

Many more people flocked to an Outram dairy farm open day at the weekend than had visited last year, farmer Duncan Wells said yesterday.

Farmers Duncan and Anne-Marie Wells own Huntly Rd Dairies, which attracted about 140 visitors during a Fonterra Open Gates event last year.

But yesterday, attendance rose more than threefold and about 430 people visited during the latest dairy farm awareness-raising event, Mr Wells said. . . 

Six months as a taxi company owner, six months as an apple picker

Philmy Chite splits his years into two.

One half of the year he’s focuses on his taxi business in the Solomon Islands. The other half of the year he’s in Hawke’s Bay, picking apples.

Chite landed back in Hastings this week with a group of 16 others from the Solomon Islands as part of the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme.

It’s the sixth year in a row he’s done it, and he loves it. . . 

World-first NZ tech changing global agriculture landscape:

New Zealand agritech companies are creating world-first technology to help feed the world and lead the way in their industry, AgritechNZ chief executive Peter Wren-Hilton says.

Technology is making life easier, from eco-friendly cars to faster software and tech improvements are benefitting Kiwis in everyday life, he says.

“The same goes for agritech innovation such as crop protection and plant biotechnology which is improving the lives of farmers and consumers around New Zealand. . . 

From plastic to posts:

Anchor™ Light Proof™ milk bottles will soon be appearing on farms across New Zealand, but you won’t find them in the fridge.

Fonterra has teamed up with Kiwi-owned start up, Future Post™, to turn milk bottles and other soft plastics into fence posts for kiwi farms.

Fonterra Brands New Zealand’s (FBNZ) Sustainability and Environment Manager, Larisa Thathiah, says the posts are an innovative new way for farmers to improve their on-farm sustainability.

“This partnership provides farmers with an environmentally-friendly fencing option, made from the packaging of our farmers’ milk, which is pretty special,” says Larisa. . . 

Hemp seed food products now legal in New Zealand:

A small yet significant victory occurred on Tuesday as Government announced formal regulatory changes, which will mean that hemp seed products will be legal for sale and consumption as from 12 November 2018.

This change in legislation means that in addition to hemp seed oil (which has been legal since 2003) items such as de-hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder, hemp seed beverages and hemp seed snack bars will now all be able to be legally sold for human consumption in New Zealand. . . 

Champion sharemilkers’ dairy farm placed on the market:

A dairy farm owned by two former regional Sharemilker of the Year winners has been placed on the market for sale as part of a plan to diversify their rural business interests.

The 140.6-hectare farm located some 19 kilometres south-west of Opotiki in the Eastern Bay of Plenty is owned by 2001 Bay of Plenty Sharemilker of the Year title winners Dean and Sharyn Petersen. It is one of three dairy and diary-support farms the Petersen’s own in the region.

The property sustains milking of 320 cows on a De Laval system – averaging 119,620 kilogrammes of milk solids per season over the past four years, as well as producing a substantial maize silage tonnage annually for stock feed. . .


Different in real world

06/09/2016

Why do we bring in immigrants when there are so many people on benefits?

Prime Minister John Key gave the answer:

“We bring in people to pick fruit under the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme, and they come from the islands, and they do a fabulous job. And the government has been saying ‘well, OK, there are some unemployed people who live in the Hawke’s Bay, and so why can’t we get them to pick fruit’, and we have been trialling a domestic RSE scheme.

“But go and ask the employers, and they will say some of these people won’t pass a drug test, some of these people won’t turn up for work, some of these people will claim they have health issues later on. So it’s not to say there aren’t great people who transition from Work and Income to work, they do, but it’s equally true that they’re also living in the wrong place, or they just can’t muster what is required to actually work.”

He said geographic location was a major factor in matching unemployed people up with available jobs, and filling a position like a hairdresser in Queenstown could require a migrant to fill the role. . . 

He was criticised for this but employers back him up:

The New Zealand Seasonal Workers Scheme, is designed to give unemployed locals a job and aims to help them move to  areas with staff shortages.

But fruit growers said they were frustrated by the number of ‘no shows’ involved in the trial.

Central Otago wine grower James Dicey said he had tried several times to get workers in the trial to pick grapes for him.

“I’ve tried the scheme and worked hand in glove with Work and Income in the past and the level of suitable candidates who are prepared to turn up on a reliable basis and do an honest day’s work is pretty skinny on the ground. The last attempt I made on this, we tried to import some people from Dunedin. We had 1400 people be interviewed and we struggled to fill an eight-seater bus,” he said.

Mr Dicey said even before the scheme he tried to get a van full of beneficiaries to do seasonal work for him, but to no avail.

“Usually in a van of 10, if you can fill a van, two people won’t turn up to work the first day, another two people will last a couple of hours, the next two people won’t turn up the following day, then two of those people will see the harvest out, then when we offer them winter pruning work maybe one or two will do that.”

Mr Dicey said trying to get the workers left to do what was necessary to become full time – such as get their restricted licence – was difficult.

“I’ve offered all sorts of incentives for these two kids that I’ve got working for me at the moment to try to get them from their learners to their restricted licence, they’re not motivated. I’ve offered them money, I’ve put things on the table and I don’t understand what more I can do with these guys to get them across the line. And it’s a constant source of frustration. It’s just one illustration of something that makes it very difficult for me to be able to offer full time employment.” . . .

It’s not just in horticulture, dairying depends on foreign workers, in particular backpackers who, like Kiwis when they travel, are willing to work while they explore the country.

In the political world of the Opposition who want fewer foreigners every unemployed person has the attitude and ability to work.

But in the real world it’s different.

Unemployment is now around 5% nationally and lower in some of the places where there’ are staff shortages.

That’s getting down to the unemployable – people who can’t or won’t work.

When you’ve got fruit and vegetables to pick or cows to milk, you need people you can rely on to do what’s required when it’s required.

The alternative to foreign workers, be they visitors or immigrants, when locals won’t work is more mechanisation.

A friend who with a horticultural business installed a new sorting machine which took the place of five workers.

It was expensive but he said the difficulty of finding staff and increased complexities and costs of employment meant it was worth it.

This is the choice employers face when they can’t find locals who can and will work – foreigners or machines.


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