Rural round-up

June 8, 2019

New machine to help export traceability:

AgResearch is developing a method of giving New Zealand exports a “unique fingerprint” that scientifically proves their provenance and could be used to deter supply-chain fraud.

The technology is so accurate that it can differentiate New Zealand, English and Welsh lamb using a measurement that only takes a few seconds. It can also detect what feed – such as grain, grass or chicory – a carcass was reared on, an increasingly important trait driving consumer spending. . . 

Click here for more: https://vimeo.com/340251207/7367c5e18b

Dr Alastair Ross said the new rapid evaporative ionisation mass spectrometer (REIMS) machine being used at AgResearch’s Lincoln campus detects the “molecular phenotype” of a sample, a unique “fingerprint” made up of molecules resulting from the interaction of genes and the environment. This measurement, which previously took over an hour of lab work, can now be done in seconds on samples of meat, milk, plants and wine. . . 

Farmer submissions encouraged on ZCB:

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle is encouraging dairy farmers to speak up and make a submission on the Government’s proposed Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill.

“DairyNZ welcomes the opportunity to engage constructively and share our perspective on this Bill and are encouraging dairy farmers right across New Zealand to do the same” says Dr Mackle.

“The potential implications of this legislation, in particular the targets for methane reduction, are huge for our sector. That’s why farmer engagement is so important. . .

New Zealand women’s meat industry group launched – Angie Skerrett:

A group for women working in the meat industry in New Zealand has been launched, in an effort to attract more women into the sector.

The New Zealand launch of Meat Business Women (MBW) is the latest in a rapid expansion of the organisation which was started in the UK.

The group held its inaugural meeting in Napier, to outline their vision for a positive future for the sector. . .

Farmer satisfaction with banks continues to slide:

Farmers’ overall satisfaction with their banks remains strong but it is declining steadily, the Federated Farmers 11th biennial banking survey shows.

Satisfaction rates are at their lowest since the survey began in August 2015.

“More than 1300 of our farmer members responded to the survey we commissioned from Research First and overall satisfaction with banks has dropped over the last six months from 74% to 71%,” Federated Farmers economics and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . . 

Proceed with caution on speed limit changes:

Safety of people on our roads is a top priority but any move to reduce speed limits should not be an excuse to skimp on road maintenance and upgrading, Federated Farmers says.

“There are some rural roads which are too windy, narrow and bumpy to drive on safely at 100 km/hr,” Feds transport spokesperson Karen Williams says. “It may indeed be wise to post a lower speed limit on such routes, though the overriding rule ‘drive to the conditions’ springs to mind.”

However, the blanket and widespread speed limit reductions being suggested in the wake of data from a new NZTA mapping tool could cause far more harm than good. . .

Comvita CEO to step down, Hewlett to lead strategic review Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – Comvita’s chief executive for the past four years, Scott Coulter, is stepping down in September and, while it searches for a replacement, former CEO Brett Hewlett is taking on a temporary executive role to review the company’s underperforming assets.

Coulter will retain a governance role in the manuka honey products company’s business in China business.

“Scott’s commitment to Comvita since joining the company in 2003 has been outstanding,” says chair Neil Craig. . .


Rural round-up

April 11, 2019

Dairy loses gloss – Neal Wallace:

Political and banking uncertainty appears to be taking some of the gloss off the dairy industry with just seven farms in Southland and Canterbury selling in the last six months.

From October to the middle of March just two dairy farms in Canterbury and five in Southland were sold but a broader lack of buyer confidence has eased national dairy land prices by up to 15%.

Real Estate Institute spokesman Brian Peacocke says a perfect storm has taken the wind out of the sector’s sails but he notes activity has started to pick up.

Rules governing the sale of land to foreign buyers have been tightened, banks are viewing lending to dairying less favourably, tax changes are possible, the introduction of environmental taxes and regulations are expected and borrowing costs . . .

Dire worker shortage in orchards – Richard Rennie:

Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty orchardists are grappling again with a seasonal labour shortage, with a shortfall of thousands of workers expected as kiwifruit and apple harvests reach their peak.

The shortage has horticultural heads exasperated at the need for greater understanding from the Government of how dire the situation has become.

The Social Development Ministry declared a seasonal labour shortage for kiwifruit early this month and extended the already declared labour shortage hitting Hawke’s Bay. 

Shortfalls in staff numbers have increased over last year’s with Bay of Plenty’s deficit of 1400 likely to push 3800 at the mid-April harvest peak. Last year the region was short by 1200 staff at this stage of harvest.  . . 

Fruit rotting, workers suffering amid Hawke’s Bay labour shortage

Fruit is rotting on the ground in Hawke’s Bay amid a massive worker shortage and orchardists warn that overworked pickers are suffering more accidents.

The official labour shortage first declared for Hawke’s Bay six weeks ago – with 192 tourists granted approval to work in orchards – expired on Friday.

It was immediately extended, but growers say it’s too little too late.

Phil Paynter from Johnny Appleseed Holdings had to say goodbye to 22 hard-working pickers last week and says that with a little more warning, he could have kept them. . . 

Guy Trafford looks at two current on-farm issues, pointing to some recent relevant history for controlling feral goats, and to the battle of the science over glyphosate – GUy Trafford:

Some farmers are feeling let down by government after the recommendations from the select committee on military-styled weapons have been announced.

The particular piece that they are at odds with is that only .22 calibre rifles (or less) are allowed to be semi-automatic and with a magazine capable of holding 10 shells or less. Any larger calibre rifles are only to be used by licensed contractors.

To be fair to the government, from my recollection, at no point did they indicate that higher calibre semi-automatic rifles would be allowed, and it would have been incredibly naive to think otherwise. The only animals needing these weapons are likely to be goats with possums and rabbits quite able to be culled by .22 or shot guns . . 

Comvita to take full control of China JV – Rebecca Howard:

 (BusinessDesk) – Honey company Comvita has entered a conditional agreement to acquire the remaining 49 percent of its China joint venture, Comvita Food and Comvita China, for about $20 million.

Comvita will acquire the JV by issuing 4.05 million new Comvita ordinary shares at $4.35 per share and an additional cash payment of $3.19 million. The acquisition will be earnings accretive immediately on a per share basis, it said.

“This completes the ‘final piece of the jigsaw’ with respect to our China Strategy, which we have been working on for a number of years,” chief executive Scott Coulter said. . . 

Students inspired by agricultural science at UWA Future Farm:

Breaking the city-country divide, Year 12 Geography students from Penrhos College recently had their third annual field day at The University of Western Australia’s Ridgefield Farm in Pingelly.

The UWA Ridgefield Farm is home to the Future Farm 2050 project, which facilitates multidisciplinary research and development of sustainable and economically viable farms at local, national and international levels.

Professor Phil Vercoe from The UWA School of Agriculture and Environment and The UWA Institute of Agriculture introduced the students to the Enrich project, which was part of the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) investigating the benefits of planting native perennial shrubs as livestock feed. . .


Rural round-up

February 17, 2018

Disease has two hubs – Annette Scott:

Cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis has been in New Zealand for at least two years and is spread wider than first thought, Southland veterinary clinic Vet South says while Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says there are now two infection hubs.

The Winton practice sent an email to clients on Thursday urging people whose stock or properties might have been linked to Southern Centre Dairies to come forward.

Southern Centre Dairies, the hub of infected properties in Southland, is owned by Gea and Alfons Zeestraten.

Vet South director veterinarian Georgette Wouda said Ministry for Primary Industries surveillance work indicated the disease was limited to a relatively small group of farms but more needed to be known.

“Down in our region all of the infected properties to date have links with Alfons Zeestraten’s farms. . .

Lamb and wool marketers confident – Sally Rae:

Farmers visiting Alliance Group’s tent at the Southern Field Days had mostly one burning question — how long could lamb prices be sustained.

And the response? “We feel market fundamentals around the world give us some confidence,” chairman Murray Taggart said.

The North Canterbury farmer acknowledged that his position was a “bit easier” than what it was when he first took on the role.

The mood among farmers was “pretty positive” and, despite climatic conditions, he was “really chuffed” with market prices.

“You’ve done a bloody good job,” a long-time shareholder told Mr Taggart on the way past, but Mr Taggart said the company was not resting on its laurels. . . 

Momentum grows in understanding of farming, farmers – Sally Rae:

Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne believes there is real momentum building for farming — “and in the right way”.

The straight-talking West Coast dairy farmer — who last year broke a 118-year history of male leadership of the rural lobby organisation — has been at the Southern Field Days in Waimumu this week.

Joking that she had left her partner unsupervised around the many machinery sites, she helped a Federated Farmers team to victory over FMG in a tug-o-war competition.

Ms Milne, who is known for her down-to-earth and no-nonsense approach,  said the leadership role was “really exciting” and it was a privilege to be a voice for farmers. While she knew it was a big job, it had surprised her the places that she ended up and the people she had met.

It had been somewhat of a baptism by fire, with the general election  being held straight after she came into the role. . . 

Honey season better but patchy – Richard Rennie:

With parts of Northland and Bay of Plenty grappling with major rainfall while parts of Taranaki and Otago remain parched, honey producers are reporting mixed results for the season’s honey collection.

Comvita, one of the country’s largest honey producers, has already informed investors this season has been a successful one, largely thanks to more favourable conditions in December and January. 

However, severe weather in early January hit Northland and Waikato hard at a critical flowering period, pushing yields down towards a more average season.

Comvita chief executive Scott Coulter told investors if the above-normal temperatures remain for the rest of this summer, Wairarapa, Whanganui, East Coast and Hawke’s Bay are expected to have an above average season. . . 

Big toy has price tag to match – Sally Rae:

If you’ve got a spare $625,000 sitting in the wallet, then a Fendt 1050 tractor could be just the ticket.

The world’s largest conventional tractor was attracting plenty of interest at JJ Ltd’s site at the Southern Field Days.

There are only three of the 500hp tractors — described by JJ’s staff as being in a “class of its own” — in New Zealand, two demonstrator models and one that had been bought by a North Island contractor. . . 

NZ Well Positioned to be global player in alternative protein market – producer:

Eco conscious millennial consumers are reshaping demand for alternative sources of protein according to the country’s largest manufacturer of vegetarian foods.

Mark Roper spokesperson for Life Health Foods – which makes plant based Bean Supreme and recently launched Alternative Meat Co. products, says growing concern for the environment is leading this demographic to seek out other options to integrate into their diet.

A nationwide survey commissioned by the company has found that millennials aged 18-34 are the most likely demographic to adopt a mostly meat-free lifestyle in the next decade. . . 


Rural round-up

February 1, 2018

Let ideas flow on water management – Andrew Curtis:

Andrew Curtis is chief executive of IrrigationNZ, a national not-for-profit membership organisation for farmers and growers who use irrigation. It carries out training on efficient water use.

As year’s went, 2017 was a fairly dramatic one. In February, one of the biggest fires in New Zealand history ignited on the Port Hills amid tinder-dry conditions, causing thousands of residents to be evacuated. In March, the Upper North Island was soaked, Auckland experienced its wettest March day in nearly 60 years, and more than 300 homes were flooded.

July brought flooding to Otago and Canterbury, with snow and strong winds in other areas. The end of the year saw a marked change, with many regions experiencing record low levels of rain in November. . .

Remembering rain will come – Sally Rae:

Central Otago farmer Donny Maclean has a saying – ”we’re a day closer to rain than we were yesterday”.

It was important to keep remembering that, he said, as the searing heat continued to beat down on his Omakau farm, reaching temperatures up to 36degC on Monday.

”Central Otago will never let you down. It’ll take you right to the edge [but] it’ll come right in the nick of time,” he said.

Bellfield has been the Maclean family for 125 years and it was the longest period of continual heat Mr Maclean (56) had experienced during his years of farming.

”We’ve never been this hot this long,” he said yesterday. . . 

Long term effect on farmers considered – Simon Hartley:

The public and businesses are being urged to take a long-term view of the drought affecting Otago and Southland, given the compounding factors being faced by all farmers.

The lack of water, rising irrigation costs, failed crops, diminished feed stocks and crop replacement are just some of the issues being faced by farmers in the months ahead, Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan said, after a medium-scale adverse drought event was declared in parts of Otago and Southland yesterday.

”This drought is going to affect crops for some time yet, going into autumn and winter,” he said, when contacted, yesterday. . . 

Mycoplasma outbreak highlights flaws:

The formation of an action group to provide a voice for and to assist Southland farmers understand and deal with Mycoplasma bovis is a positive move.

It is good to see farmers, veterinarians and other members of the industry working together in the quest to eradicate the bacterial cattle disease.

Eradication remains the focus of the Ministry for Primary Industries and so it should, given the implications of the disease not only for New Zealand’s rural sector, but also the country as a whole. . . 

Exports and imports hit new highs in 2017:

Both exports and imports reached new highs in 2017, as New Zealand earned more from agricultural products and bought more cars and computers, Stats NZ said today.

“The previous high for the value of goods exports in a calendar year was 2014,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said. “The previous high for imports was 2015.”

Annual exports were valued at $53.7 billion for the year ended December 2017, up $5.2 billion (11 percent) from 2016. Dairy products led the rise, up $2.8 billion to $14.0 billion. Meat rose $706 million to $6.6 billion. Logs, wood, and wood articles rose $546 million to $4.7 billion. . .

Monthly exports reach new record in December:

Exports of milk powder, butter, and cheese lifted total exports to a record $5.6 billion in December 2017, Stats NZ said today. Monthly exports were $1.1 billion higher than in December 2016.

“Record export values of dairy products drove total exports to their highest-ever monthly value,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said. “The previous highest values for both dairy exports and total exports were recorded in the 2013/14 dairy export season, when dairy prices were at a high level.” . . 

Comvita will report 1H profit over $3M, confirms annual guidance on normal honey harvest – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – Comvita expects to report a “significant turnaround” in its first-half results, with net profit over $3 million, and says it is tracking in line with its full-year guidance after good weather in December and January boosted the honey harvest.

The Te Puke-based company, due to report its earnings for the six months ended Dec. 31, 2017, later this month, said the honey season has progressed to a point where it has early estimates of an average or normal harvest season, though it won’t have full visibility of the crop until April/May. The company’s chief executive Scott Coulter said it was a “welcome return to generally favourable weather conditions conducive to producing honey, compared to the extremely poor season in 2017.” . . 

The changing face of Agritech:

Industries rise, fall and evolve under the constant development of new and innovative technologies. Refrigeration changed how food was supplied, the lightbulb enabled us to utilise more hours in the day, the telephone connected people and the internet distributed information far better and quicker than ever before.

A new a wave of digital technologies is here. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoTs), blockchain, big data, robotics and automation are just some of the technologies currently impacting business. No matter whether it’s banking, engineering, retail or agriculture, these innovations are changing how each sector operates. . .


There’s honey, manuka honey and manuka honey with UMF

August 25, 2013

Manuka honey attracts a premium price but not all honey that claims to be manuka honey is and not all that is has the Unique Manuka factor (UMF).

Britain’s Food Standards Agency has issued a nationwide warning about misleading and illegal claims made on the labels of manuka honey jars,, in a worrying blow to the fast-growing Kiwi industry.

New Zealand manuka honey commands prices 10 to 20 times higher than other types of honey because of its unique and much-vaunted anti-bacterial properties. . . .

But tests by reputable UK, Chinese and Singaporean laboratories reveal many manuka honey products have none of the claimed active properties – some of the honey is not even manuka – prompting industry leaders to demand a crackdown on “potentially huge fraud”.

Some of the companies selling mislabelled honey are New Zealand producers and some are foreign. But even the most reputable New Zealand honey producers now face heightened surveillance in the UK. . .

Comvita, New Zealand’s biggest manuka honey producer with a market capitalisation of nearly $150 million, is demanding the industry be cleared of cowboys.

Chief operating officer Scott Coulter said pots of manuka honey labelled with meaningless numbers and certifications were designed to confuse customers who thought they were getting UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) accredited food and nutriceuticals with measurable health benefits. “You can put a number on any honey, and that is damaging to Comvita,” Coulter told the Herald on Sunday. “They can buy a 20+ honey thinking it is manuka and it is not. People will use it and not get any benefits and that damages the reputation of the product and the industry.”

John Rawcliffe, head of the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association, which represents 38 licensed manuka honey companies, acknowledged the UK crackdown was due.

“There is potentially huge fraud. There are higher and ever-increasing volumes of honey labelled as manuka which are not manuka,” he said. . .

In New Zealand, beekeepers are not waiting for authorities to clean up the industry. . . 

There’s honey, manuka honey and manuka honey with the active properties which give it the UMF.

Having hives in or near maunka isn’t a guarantee that the honey the bees produce will have the certifiable levels of  UMF.

If there’s gorse, clover or anything else bees prefer within flying distance they’ll ignore the manuka.

Even if manuka honey is produced it might not have the UMF.

False claims – accidental or deliberate – threaten a potentially lucrative industry.


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