Rural round-up

May 22, 2020

RA 20 virus danger to NZ farming – Doug Edmeades:

There is another pandemic sweeping the nation. It is a new, exceedingly virulent virus, which is likely to do more damage to the New Zealand economy in the long-term than COVID-19, if left unchecked.

I am calling for an immediate lockdown – total elimination is essential to prevent New Zealand agriculture slipping back to the dark ages.

It is coded RA 20, but the full medical name is “Regenerative Agriculture 2020”. RA 20 is believed to have originated in the Great Plains in America. It quickly spread to the Australian Outback and then hopped the ditch to New Zealand.

Interestingly, like Covid-19, it is particularly severe in those weakened by other complicating factors. Some victims are known to have no knowledge of the important values of science, evidence, logic and reason. Another cohort includes those who know little about the principles of soil fertility, pasture management and animal husbandry.  . . 

Film gets monkey off his back – David Anderson:

A young Kiwi, Los Angeles-based, filmmaker has made good use of the lockdown period to help farmers battling with mental health issues.

Twenty-year-old Hunter Williams has shot and produced a short video that addresses the poorer mental health outcomes facing the rural sector. The short film encourages rural people to talk about the struggles they may be facing and not keep their feelings bottled up.

Williams told Rural News that he’d had his own mental health issues growing up and the film was something that was close to his heart. The eight minute documentary is called ‘The Monkeys on Our Backs’. Various farmers and organisations have been involved in the production, including the Rural Support Trust and Farmstrong.

Williams was raised in Hawkes Bay and comes from a large farming family. 

Venison marketers building on-line and retail sales :

Marketers of New Zealand farm-raised venison are making a concerted push to build sales through on-line outlets and through gourmet retailers. This gourmet product, normally sold mainly through food service distributors to chefs, has been particularly hard-hit by the sound of restaurant doors slamming shut around the globe.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) chief executive Innes Moffat says Covid-related restaurant shut-downs created a crisis for their food service suppliers and the farmers that supply them. Demand from chefs for NZ farm-raised venison – one of the industry’s greatest assets – overnight became a vulnerability.

“Fortunately our venison export marketers and/or their overseas partners already had small retail and on-line marketing programmes. They are now putting a lot of energy into generating more sales through these channels, while looking out for the green shoots of recovery in food service.” . . 

Potato prices reach all-time high in April:

Rising prices for potatoes, soft drinks (large bottles), capsicums, and fresh eggs saw overall food prices up 1.0 percent in April 2020, Stats NZ said today.

Potato prices rose 18 percent in April to a weighted average price of $2.51 per kilo, an all-time peak.

Some media reports suggest the potato industry has seen a 30–50 percent increase in demand from supermarkets and a shortage of workers.

“Higher demand and a shortage of potato pickers, many of whom stayed home due to fear of the COVID-19 virus, could explain this large price increase,” consumer prices manager Bryan Downes said. . . 

Hunting industry requires domestic support:

New Zealand’s guided hunting industry has been severely impacted by COVID-19 and is appealing for support from domestic hunters looking for a unique hunting experience.

“Guided hunting was worth over $50 million a year to the New Zealand economy and provided primarily international visitors with fantastic Kiwi hunting experiences on both private and public land,” says Game Animal Council General Manager Tim Gale. “It has also been an extremely important employer in provincial regions and has a low impact on our environment.”

“It really has been a New Zealand tourism success story.” . . 

Why your rural sales reps won’t sell remotely – St John Craner:

Remote selling isn’t something new yet we’re seeing a lot of resistance to it right now.

Many clients are telling us their reps won’t sell remotely, complaining that they “need to see the customer”.

Whilst I buy that argument in-part, selling remotely has been around for a wee while. Phone, email or online have been a stable source of sales for years. They aren’t new technologies. 

The real reason why most sales reps feel they can’t sell remotely is because of fear. . . 


Rural round-up

May 21, 2020

“Geen tape’ policies should be put on hold – Simon Bridges :

National leader Simon Bridges wants the government to put off “green tape” policies in the farming and primary sector.

The comments were in response to a question asked during a presentation to the Otago Chamber of Commerce, on whether the government needed to change some of its policies it wanted to introduce in the primary sector.

Bridges said it was one thing to have certain policies in good times and another during a time of deep recession or depression.

“Some of the policies around climate change, water, a variety of other areas of green tape I think are going to be unhelpful at this time.

“I’m not suggesting these issues aren’t important, they are, but the facts have changed and we need to change what we do.” . . 

Prices drop for sheep and beef farmers:

Prices paid to sheep and beef cattle farmers and meat manufacturers both fell sharply in the March 2020 quarter, Stats NZ said today.

Sheep, beef, and grain farmers received 11.5 percent less for their products in the March quarter, reversing rises over most of 2019. In turn, prices paid to meat manufacturers were down 4.4 percent in the March quarter.

“The sharp fall in prices for sheep and beef farming in the first three months of 2020 coincided with dry conditions in many parts of New Zealand, with sheep and beef prices falling,” business prices acting manager Geoffrey Wong said. . . 

How to export your way out of a financial crisis – a 10 point plan for New Zealand – Charles Finny:

The hugely successful coronavirus response means New Zealand is well-placed for an export-led recovery, writes Charles Finny in this paper for the SSANSE Commission for a Post-Covid Future at the University of Canterbury.

New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 has come at an enormous economic cost. If we don’t move very fast that cost will increase greatly, and if we are not careful we will be left with a really perverse result. We will be even more dependent on one market, China, and on one sector, agriculture, than we were before going into this crisis.

Of course, China will continue to be an important market for New Zealand for many years to come and agriculture is critical to our future – but we don’t want all our eggs in a couple of baskets, particularly as China has in recent years shown a propensity to use trade dependency as a political lever.

In 2019 China took: . . 

Nine Van Leeuwen Group farms offered for sale :

Nine Van Leeuwen Group farms are up for sale, close to three years after cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis was discovered on more than a dozen properties owned by the South Canterbury-based company.

Sixteen properties belonging to the group had restricted place notices imposed on them by the Ministry for Primary Industries in July 2017 after the outbreak of the bacterial cattle disease, in an effort to control the movement of stock.

At the time two dozen cows on one of the group’s farms tested positive for the disease, the first identified in New Zealand. . . 

Rain brings relief to Hawke’s Bay farmers over weekend – but the drought isn’t over yet – Bonnie Flaws:

For the first time since the drought began, Hawke’s Bay has had double digit rainfall over the weekend, bringing much needed relief to farmers in the region.

Farmers have been under extraordinary pressure in recent months as coronavirus compounded the issues brought about by the drought.

Rain fell all weekend on the farms of Hawke’s Bay, which saw sample measurements of rainfall for the week reach approximately 30 millimetres in the Southern Ranges, south coast and Tangoio as well as some northern coastal areas and ranges. . . 

Taranaki accounting specialist urges farmers to be proactive about their future finances :

The $500,000 government funding for drought recovery has been welcomed by the dairy industry. However, with the current global uncertainty limiting the ability to predict where the milk price will land and the negative implications of COVID-19 affecting contractors’ and farmers’ income, Dairy NZ and Baker Tilly Staples Rodway have teamed up to highlight the need for farmers to understand their finances.

Taranaki farm accounting specialist, Amanda Burling, of Baker Tilly Staples Rodway said: “It’s been a challenging time for the Dairy Industry. The drought, along with the impacts of Covid-19 are providing a lot of uncertainty. The sale yards in lockdown along with the works slowing down due to social distancing rules has had an impact on cashflow. Now we must work together to prepare for next spring.” . . 


Rural round-up

April 16, 2020

If a tree falls in the forest can it be exported? – Dr Eric Crampton:

We need to be watching closely how the Government proceeds. We risk falling into the same kind of value-added magical thinking that ended badly in the past; messing up our international trading position; and returning to bureaucratic control over domestic industry, warns Eric Crampton.

Last week, Forestry Minister Shane Jones warned of impending restrictions on New Zealand’s international trade in logs.

Even if you don’t really care much about forestry, the Government’s response here may signal what’s in store for the rest of the economy after lockdown.

Will New Zealand continue as a trading nation and open economy, building on the recent success in setting a free trade agenda in essential goods with Singapore? Or, will it retreat to a more Muldoonist policy in which people like Minister Jones decide what can be exported?

This matters.

Processing delays to lengthen :

Already significant waiting times faced by farmers to get stock processed are likely to get worse in the short term, Beef + Lamb’s Economic Service and the Meat Industry Association say.

Processing capacity for sheep has been cut in half while beef is about 30% lower as plants adjust to covid-19 rules.

The latest analysis forecasts South Island lamb processing in April and May to be pushed back another week to five weeks though the backlog is expected to be cleared by the end of May.

In the North Island no further delays are expected on top of what farmers are already experiencing. . . 

Funding pushes efforts to eradicate stoats on Rangitoto ki te Tonga / d’Urville Island – Tracy Neal:

New Zealand’s eighth-largest island is on a mission to become stoat-free.

The island in the western Marlborough Sounds was said to be free of ship rats, Norway rats, possums and weasels, but stoats had led to the local extinction of little spotted kiwi, yellow-crowned kākāriki and South Island kākā.

They also threatened an important population of South Island long-tailed bats/pekapeka. . .

AgTech hackathon:

Pivoting around a global pandemic, the fourth annual AgTech Hackathon team is once again seeking ambitious problem solvers to ideate five Primary Industries challenges – albeit from their bubble.

Originally planned to be the last weekend of March as an active part of New Zealand AgriFood Week, the event was postponed due to COVID-19. True to creative and tech roots, the Hackathon is determined to go ahead but with a twist.

Introducing AgTech Hackathon Lite. . . 

Cauliflower prices on the march:

Cauliflower prices rose more than 60 percent in March, as prices for a wide range of vegetables also increased in the month, Stats NZ said today.

Prices for vegetables rose in March 2020 (up 7.4 percent), mainly influenced by rises for broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower, capsicums, and carrots.

Overall food prices were up 0.7 percent, with most other staple foods holding steady, although prices for many meat products fell.

Cauliflower prices rose 64 percent to a weighted average price of $5.75 per kilo. . . 

Avocado orchard conversion block on the market:

A former small-scale dairy farm and maize cropping block set up for conversion into a commercial-sized avocado orchard has been placed on the market for sale.

The 95.8-hectare property at Waiharara, some 28-kilometres north of Kaitaia, was originally established to run as a dairying unit bolstered by the capacity to produce economic levels of stock feed.

However, a decade of cumulative economic, legislative, and environmental changes have motivated the Waiharara, property owners to sell up their dairying interests and the land which previously sustained the dairying-related activities. . . 


Trend is down

April 9, 2020

It is too early to relax, but the trend of newly identified cases of Covid-19 is down.

Recoveries outnumbering new cases is grounds for cautious optimism.

Other trends are beginning to show the economic cost of the battle against the disease:

Spending on eating out and accommodation plunged more than $300 million or almost one-third in March in the wake of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, Stats NZ said today.

Groceries had record-high sales in March, but retail card spending fell across the board during the month from clothes to fuel.

Total retail sales fell $231 million (3.9 percent) in March 2020, after adjusting for seasonal effects, the biggest fall on record in both percentage and dollar terms. . .

While these trends are down, business failures and job losses are trending up.

All of these will be leading to a decrease in the  (a survey shows 1/3 don’t expect to survive) tax take just when the demands for public spending are increasing.


Rural round-up

March 27, 2020

Farming must step up, sector heads say – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s lockdown over Covid-19 is an opportunity for the agricultural sector ‘‘to step up and remind our country how great we are’’, Farmlands chief executive Peter Reidie says.

The farm supplies co-operative has been identified as an essential service and will remain open, although customers have to call or email orders first, and a contactless collection process will then be arranged.

Yesterday, Mr Reidie said the world would still need to be fed and New Zealand was very well placed in terms of the quantity and quality of its produce .

‘‘Provided we can get things on boats … we should keep on keeping on. That’s got to be the ambition,’’ he said.

It was a reminder of the importance of landowners, farmers and orchardists. . . 

Kiwi Jack Raharuhi takes the crown in top Australasian award:

Jack Raharuhi from Pāmu Farms in Westport, and Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer of the Year 2016, has been crowned the 2020 Zanda McDonald Award winner.

Raharuhi, 27 years old, is the Buller Dairy Group Operations Manager for Pāmu, where he oversees 4 dairy farms and a machinery syndicate at Cape Foulwind, and Health and Safety leadership for 10 dairy farms. He is also Chair of the West Coast Focus Farm Trust, and heavily involved with training and mentoring staff as part of the West Coast 2IC Development Programme.

The annual Award, regarded as a prestigious badge of honour by the agribusiness industry, recognises and supports talented young individuals in the ag sector from Australia and New Zealand. It was launched in 2014 in memory of Australian beef industry leader Zanda McDonald, who died aged 41 after an accident at his Queensland property in 2013. . . 

Carrying on farming and consider grain options for stock feed:

Farmers can carry on doing what they do best – putting high quality food on people’s tables and earning export revenue – with confirmation direct from the Prime Minister that they are an ‘Essential Service’ that can continue operating under the Covid-19 lockdown from midnight Wednesday.

Services associated with the primary sector, including food processors, diagnostics, farm suppliers, freight and trucking can also go about their business, while taking all practical steps to limit people to people contact.

This confirmation they are vital to helping the nation survive the virus crisis will be a relief and reason for pride for many farmers and workers in those associated industries. But for some, there remains a pressing concern – the drought, and how to feed stock. . . 

Dairy Trainee of the Year spots all go to women :

Women won all three placings in the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year competition.

The awards were presented at the West Coast Events Centre in Shantytown on Tuesday last week.

Alexis Wells won the trainee section, Dallas Bradley was second and Stephanie Gray claimed third place.

Ms Wells (21) is a farm assistant on a 307ha, 670-cow Pamu Farms of New Zealand property in Reefton. She is studying level 4 husbandry and feeding with Primary ITO and said she was proud to have made it to the dairy awards finals three years in a row. Her goal is to the win the national title. . . 

Pandemic postpones DoC predator control – David Williams:

The Conservation Department will halt operations to kill bird-eating pests during the four-week national shutdown. David Williams reports

Pest control operations to protect rare and vulnerable native species are about to cease.

The Department of Conservation will halt all biodiversity work during the upcoming four-week national shutdown, director-general Lou Sanson confirms.

“We debated that seriously but when we heard the Prime Minister [on Monday], and we understood the seriousness of the lockdown, the number one focus for New Zealand is to stop people moving, and that means all our biodiversity work stops, our construction work stops. About the only things we’ll be doing is the operation of sewerage schemes, search and rescue, and fire.”

(DoC acts as the local council, providing utilities like drinking water and sewerage schemes, in places like Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.) . . 

Exports rise as dairy gains while logs and fish fall:

Total goods exports increased in the February 2020 month due to an increase in the value of dairy products, Stats NZ said today.

The total value of meat exports was little changed, but higher quantities were exported to the United States instead of China.

The increase in total good exports was despite falls in exports of logs and fish, particularly to China, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The value of total goods exports rose by $212 million (4.5 percent) from February 2019 to reach $4.9 billion in February 2020. . . 


Rural round-up

March 13, 2020

The challenge for NZ food production is keeping up with the science while Fonterra restores its financial health – Point of Order:

Technology  is  opening  a  whole  new direction for  food production, reports  The  Guardian.

Robotics   and drones are reducing   the need for humans to be on the  land,  while  vertical  farming,  in which  vegetables  can be grown in sunless  warehouses using  LED  lighting, gene editing and metagenics are delivering new definitions of  food.

According to a  recent  report  by the think tank  RethinkX, within  15  years  the rise of  cell-based meat – made  of animal cells  grown in a bioreactor – will bankrupt  the US’s  huge  beef industry,  at the same time  removing the  need to grow soya  and maize  for   feed. . . 

Can new crops crack down on cow methane? Meet the scientists finding out – Alex Braae:

The debate about methane emissions from farming is both ongoing and polarising, and many are pinning their hopes on scientific advances to avoid both de-stocking and climate breakdown. But how effective can these measures actually be? Alex Braae visited a research lab on the front lines of this fight. 

At a sprawling campus on the outskirts of Palmerston North, research is taking place that could shape the future of New Zealand’s rural economy. 

It is here that the grasslands facility of crown research entity AgResearch is based. And it is here where one of the most important scientific questions in the country is being thrashed out – can science help meaningfully lower the methane emissions of cows and sheep?  . .

Wairarapa ‘heading into a drought’ – Fed Farmers – Marcus Anselm:

Wairarapa farmers are seeking central government backing as the threat of a drought moves closer.

Dry conditions in neighbouring Manawatū and Tararua and other nearby areas have led to Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor confirming a “medium sized adverse event” for the regions.

“Many parts of the country are doing it tough due to a substantial lack of rain,” O’Connor said. . .

Parched conditions in Hawke’s Bay hitting hard amid calls for drought declaration – Anusha Bradley:

Hawke’s Bay farmers and leaders are urging the government to declare a drought as parts of the region experience the driest period on record.

Central Hawke’s Bay and Hastings were the worst hit with farmers saying the lack of water had not only hit summer crops but winter feed was now at risk if it did not rain soon.

For some parts of Hawke’s Bay, the four months between November and February have been the driest in 50 years. . .

Drought for North Island, Chatham Islands, part of South unlocks $2m relief funding :

The entire North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chatham Islands have been declared as being in drought by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

O’Connor said the large-scale adverse event declaration, announced this morning, would unlock up to $2 million of funding to help farmers and growers from now until June 2021.

Medium-scale drought declarations had already been announced in Northland, Auckland and Waikato, Gisborne, Manawatū, Rangitīkei, and Tararua – but this new classification covers the entire North Island along with Tasman, Marlborough, Kaikōura, North Canterbury and the Chathams. . .

Moves to make horticultural water available to Kaikohe residents – Susan Botting

Far North District Council is aiming to tap into new government-funded Kaikohe water storage to permanently supply the mid-north town.

Far North District Council (FNDC) mayor John Carter said the council had already been working with Government and Northland Regional Council (NRC) on using the water from storage to be built in the North through the region’s $30 million Provincial Growth Fund project.

Carter said FNDC wanted to set up a scheme like had been developed for Kerikeri in the 1980s. This had been developed with the dual purpose to permanently provide water for horticulture and Kerikeri township. . .

Straight Off The Tussock chapter 1 – Tim Fulton:

Broomfield in North Canterbury was a quiet pond, but Jack was the stone that skipped across it.

 I was constantly in trouble. My father Gordon was away most of the time, always busy, so I rarely saw him.

And my mother Winifred, well, she was 45 when I was born and totally incapable of looking after children, so during the day I was usually left to my own devices. One of the first things I did on the farm was paint one of our white calves red with house paint. I’d noticed how the calves got marked at certain times of the season so I painted the whole calf. Terrible job they had getting the paint off…nearly killed it. Another time, father had shorn about 20 wethers ready to go to market. Back in the 1920s you had to brand your sheep for shearing, but he’d left these ones alone because they were going to be sold about three weeks later. I decided they hadn’t been branded properly so I got the dog and away I went; mustered them into the top paddock, down the road into the yards, into the front pen of the shearing shed and proceeded to brand them. As far as I could tell there wasn’t a space left on them untouched. Well, that was the last time I was in the pen with a branding iron. Father was so ashamed of the sheep he kept them stuck out of sight in the paddock until they were ready to shear again. I could have only been three or four…

After the bushfires, what now? – Roger Franklin:

The usual controversy about fuel reduction burning in forested parks and reserves has erupted in the wake of the “Black Summer Bushfires” (as they have become known) in NSW, Qld and Victoria. Predictably, two broad camps formed up on opposite sides of the blackened and shrivelled no-man’s land that, until a few months ago, had been beautiful eucalypt forests and havens for wildlife.

On one side are the land and bushfire managers, land owners and volunteer firefighters, people who deal with fire in the real world. They are all calling for more prescribed burning, knowing that it will  mitigate bushfire intensity, making fires easier and safer to control.  Loud in opposition are the green academics and environmentalists, usually supported by the ABC, claiming that fuel reduction does not work, and even if it did, this would be a pyrrhic victory, because the burning would have destroyed our fragile biodiversity. . . 

Meat and dairy sales surge in December quarter:

Meat and dairy boosted the total volume of manufacturing sales to its strongest quarterly rise in six years, Stats NZ said today.

The volume of total manufacturing sales rose 2.7 percent in the December 2019 quarter, after a flat September 2019 quarter, when adjusted for seasonal effects. It was led by a 7.9 percent lift in meat and dairy products manufacturing sales, following falls in the two previous quarters.

“This quarter’s rise is the largest increase in total manufacturing sales volumes in six years,” business statistics manager Geraldine Duoba said. . .

 


Rural round-up

March 4, 2020

Austrian billionaire to convert farm to forestry:

An Austrian billionaire has been granted consent to purchase an $8m Hill Country farm.

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has granted Wolfgang Leitner consent to buy a 800ha property located in Kotemaori, Wairoa and convert it to forestry.

The property known as Ponui Station currently has 714ha being grazed by sheep and beef stock.  . . 

They just don’t care – Trish Rankin:

Taranaki farmer and 2019 Dairy Woman of the Year Trish Rankin recently attended the annual agribusiness seminar at Harvard Business School in the United States. What she heard was astonishing. What she said shocked them.

New Zealand can be the possible solution for the impossible customer. 

That was my key takeaway from Harvard Business School’s agribusiness seminar.

The impossible customer wants food that is better for the planet, their health, animals and people. NZ products can be the answer. . . 

Scarab beetles provide agribusiness insights – Sally Rae:

“It’s time for the dung beetle”.

So says Dr Shaun Forgie, who admits he has been obsessed with the critters since the early 1990s.

But it was not until 2011 that an application to import 11 different scarab species — suitable for all New Zealand climatic conditions — was approved.

Dr Forgie, the co-founder of Auckland-based Dung Beetle Innovations, was in Dunedin on Friday to speak at a dung beetle seminar at John McGlashan College. . . 

Meat export prices hit record levels:

Export prices for meat, including beef and lamb, rose to their highest-ever level in the December 2019 quarter, boosting overall export prices, Stats NZ said today.

“Meat export prices have risen for three quarters in a row, on the back of strong demand towards the end of last year,” business prices manager Bryan Downes said.

Meat volumes rose 3.2 percent, and values rose 12 percent in the December 2019 quarter. . . 

Young, Jex-Blake re-appointed unopposed:

Richard Young and Dan Jex Blake have been re-appointed unopposed to the Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Board.

Chairman Richard Young said he was pleased the outcome provided continuity for the Co-operative and for Silver Fern Farms Limited.

“This outcome gives continuity for our Co-operative and both Dan and I recognise the responsibility we have as Directors to create enduring value for shareholders. . .

Muddy waters end cotton-pickin’ drought blues – Charlie Peel:

As Paul Brimblecombe looks out over the sea of water pouring into Cubbie Station’s vast dams for the first time since 2012, he sees more than just muddy liquid.

The Cubby Agriculture chief executive can visualise the station’s first crops in two years and the economic boom in the region around Dirranbandi near the Queensland-NSW border.

Floodwater coursing through southwestern Queensland has been pouring into the giant water reservoirs for the past week after massive downpours in the 136,014 sq km Balonne-Condamine catchment area. . . 

 


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