Rural round-up

16/09/2021

‘I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of’ dairy farmers under siege – Joanne Wane:

Dairying has been so demonised for damaging the planet that the children of some Kiwi farmers have been beaten up at school, writes Joanna Wane. Two families who’ve been on the land for five generations talk back.

Northland dairy farmer Hal Harding describes his daughter, Anna, as “a bit of an eco warrior”. The pair work alongside each other on land south of Dargaville that his early-settler ancestors bought back in 1877. But when Anna moved back home just before Covid struck, after a few years in Europe, she was having serious doubts about whether the life she’d been born into was on the right side of history.

“In the UK, there were plant-based cafes popping up left, right and centre,” she says. “I started to think, ‘Is that what we should be doing? Is dairying bad? Is this stuff all these people are telling me true?’ There were facts for one side, and facts for the other that were just as convincing. But it felt too easy to say, ‘Just eat plants and the planet will be saved.’ When I heard about this whole regenerative farming thing, I was like ‘Thank God’. My gut feeling landed; it felt right.”

The Hardings have hand-planted thousands of native trees to reforest parts of the property and adapted their farming practices to nurture soil health by minimising the use of pesticides and commercial fertilisers. They’re also planning to move away from the traditional grazing regime. For Anna, who’s now 30, it’s about believing that a different model of farming can be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, at a time when the agricultural sector is increasingly under siege. . . 

Unskilled pruning of labour force is rotten policy :

The Government’s confirmation of the availability of Recognised Seasonal Employer workers from selected countries is not enough to fix its rotten approach to labour supply, says National’s Horticulture spokesperson David Bennett.

“Prior to the Delta Covid outbreak the Government announced the availability of RSE workers from certain countries.

“While the Government’s decision to approve some RSE workers may provide some token assistance, it won’t change the fundamental flaws in a labour supply policy that’s rotten to the core.

“For example, we see 15 per cent increases in labour costs in the kiwifruit industry, and an apple industry that still has a gap in the loss of the backpacker labour supply. . . 

Low venison prices leave farmers frustrated – Maja Burry:

A deer industry leader is worried farmers will start exiting the sector if venison prices don’t improve.

Covid-19’s impact on the restaurant trade worldwide has come as a major blow, with deer farmers now facing depressed prices for the second year in a row.

The latest figures from AgriHQ show in July 2021 venison average export values fell short of the five-year average of $13.75/kg by $3.67/kg, and was $1.28/kg below July last year.

Deer Farmers Association chairperson John Somerville said the organisation recently shared the concerns of many farmers in a letter to all of New Zealand’s venison marketing company chief executives. . . 

Meat pushes food prices to fifth successive rise:

Food prices rose 0.3 percent in August 2021 compared with July 2021, mainly influenced by higher prices for meat, poultry, and fish, and restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food, Stats NZ said today.

Though modest, August’s movement is the fifth consecutive monthly rise. After adjusting for seasonality, prices rose 0.2 in August 2021.

Meat, poultry, and fish prices were up 1.3 percent in August, mainly influenced by higher prices for roasting pork (up 11 percent), sausages (up 3.5 percent), lamb chops (up 5.4 percent), and porterhouse and sirloin steak (up 2.3 percent). This was partly offset by lower prices for chicken pieces (down 3.3 percent).

Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices rose 0.4 percent, influenced by higher prices for some takeaway food. . .

Why would you want to own a forest? – The Detail:

The forestry industry is beset by supply chain issues, port disruptions, oversupply in China, sky-high shipping rates, the Delta disaster …. and that’s before you even look at the difficulties of cutting down the trees.

On top of that the industry gets a bad rap from the rural sector for being a ‘spray and walk away’ business that’s eating up valuable grazing land, for damage done to the landscape, and for contributing to a lack of employment.

So why would anyone invest in a forest?

Forestry is not for the faint-hearted – but for the persistent, there are good rewards. . . 

Netherlands proposes radical plans to cut livestock numbers by almost a third – Senay Boztas:

Dutch farmers could be forced to sell land and reduce the amount of animals they keep to help lower ammonia pollution.

Dutch politicians are considering plans to force hundreds of farmers to sell up and cut livestock numbers, to reduce damaging ammonia pollution.

After the highest Dutch administrative court found in 2019 that the government was breaking EU law by not doing enough to reduce excess nitrogen in vulnerable natural areas, the country has been battling what it is calling a “nitrogen crisis”.

Daytime speed limits have been reduced to 100kmph (62mph) on motorways to limit nitrogen oxide emissions, gas-guzzling construction projects were halted and a new law pledges that by 2030 half of protected nature areas must have healthy nitrogen levels. . . 

 


Foreseen consequences

12/08/2021

All but two sectors recorded reductions in emissions in the year to March and guess which ones went up:

“The year to March 2021 was one of significant upheaval for our economy and society, and that has flowed through to our greenhouse gas emissions,” environmental economic accounts manager Stephen Oakley said.

“In the last year, we’ve seen both the largest annual decrease on record and the most volatile quarterly movements in emissions.” . .

“Electricity, gas, water, and waste services emissions were up due to the greater reliance on fossil fuel use for electricity generation over the year, as New Zealand experienced dry conditions in hydro-generation areas,” Mr Oakley said. . .

The increase in energy emissions was a foreseen consequence of government policy.

They were warned that killing of domestic gas and coal production with no plan for transmission to renewable energy would result in the need to import coal and that’s what’s happened.

The  policy that was supposed to reduce emissions has led to an increase:

I completely agree with the Energy Minister Megan Woods and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in their assessment of the blackouts on Monday as ‘not good enough,’ National’s Energy and Resources spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.

“It is a pity Labour is committed to proportioning blame to everyone but themselves. As the Energy Minister, the buck stops with you. New Zealanders need to know that they will not be left without electricity on the coldest night of the year.

“Wages aren’t the only thing Labour is freezing. The power outages left many families with no other way to warm their homes. This Government has, after all, told us that wood burners are bad news for the environment.

“This whole incident reveals the weakness in the Labour’s impractical target of 100 per cent renewable electricity and the spur of the moment gas exploration ban issued by Jacinda Ardern last term.

“We have been importing millions of tonnes of Indonesian coal in order to keep our power sources going instead of using our own natural resources and employing a gradual step down from fossil fuels. . . 

The gas ban was virtue signaling greenwash at its worst.

The damage was not just to the environment but to the whole nuclear moment rhetoric with the reaction to this week’s black out by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Energy Minister Megan Woods. Climate change policy was nowhere to be seen when they were asking why energy companies weren’t burning more coal.

And that is how it will be – keeping the lights on, homes warm and manufacturing going now will always be more important than a cleaner, greener world tomorrow.


Rural round-up

08/08/2021

Labour shortage causes apple grower profits to go rotten :

Fresh produce grower and marketer T&G Global has reported a sharply reduced half year profit as labour shortages left fruit unpicked causing a fall in sales and rise in costs.

The company’s net profit for the six months ended June fell 64 percent to $3.4 million, as revenue dipped 3 percent to $652.1m.

Chief executive Gareth Edgecombe said Covid-19 remained a problem for the business causing uncertainty and volatility.

“Despite this, continuing international supply chain challenges, including disrupted shipping schedules, had more of an impact than we experienced proportionately last year. This affected our ability to get fresh produce to market on-time.” . . 

Competition concerns spook bread wheat growers:

Uncertainty over restrictive new buying practices and competition from the feed wheat industry has seen the nation’s arable growers cut back on sowing milling wheat – the wheat used for bread.

“It’s worrying that buying practices we believe may be anti-competitive, coming at a time when growers are able to receive better prices for animal feed wheat, may result in New Zealand becoming more reliant on imported milling wheat for a staple food,” Federated Farmers Arable Industry Chairperson Colin Hurst said.

Feds are keen to discuss the situation with the Commerce Commission and have also approached Commerce Minister David Clark. . . 

Farmers, Greenpeace look to different stats to measure emissions – Jordan Bond:

Greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farming have increased to an all time high, according to Stats NZ.

But emissions from the dairy cows themselves have dropped year-on-year, according to Ministry for the Environment, which the industry says is the best measure to look at. It said statistics which show dairy farming emissions have increased capture too many irrelevant categories.

Stats NZ figures show dairy cattle farming emissions rose 3.18 percent (up 546.2 kt CO2-e to 17,719.4 kt CO2-e) between 2018 and 2019, the most recently reported year. This is the highest figure on record, dating back to at least 2007.

The Stats NZ figures count all emissions produced on dairy farms, regardless of what the emissions stem from. . . 

Mike Chapman wins Bledisloe Cup for horticulture:

Mike Chapman, until recently Chief Executive of Horticulture New Zealand, has won the Bledisloe Cup for significant services to horticulture for more than 20 years. 

HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil, says Mike’s advocacy for the horticultural industry has been untiring, forceful, and balanced.

‘Mike always acts with the aim of achieving the best outcomes for growers and orchardists, and indeed, the New Zealand economy and health of its people through access to nutritious, locally grown food.

‘Mike has firmly stood for growers on key issues such as protecting elite soils, ensuring growers maintain their social license to grow and, hand in hand with that, ensuring growers remain economically viable in a fast-changing environment.’  . .

Several other winners announced at the Horticulture conference:

Several other people important to the New Zealand horticulture industry – in addition to Mike Chapman who was awarded the Bledisloe Cup for horticulture – received awards at the Horticulture Conference gala dinner on 5 August at Mystery Creek.

Environmental Award

Emma and Jay Clarke of Woodhaven Gardens in the Horowhenua won the Environmental Award. 

Woodhaven Gardens are leaders in sustainable growing, investing significantly in reducing environmental impact, adopting a science-led approach that balances conservation with commercial success. . .


Rural round-up

30/07/2021

NZ dairy industry’s biggest challenge is meeting methane gas emission targets – Point of Order:

New Zealand dairy farmers are some of the most efficient producers of dairy milk in the world, and while the past year has been tough for many industries, the overall picture for dairy has been overwhelmingly positive.  Returns to farmers have been at record levels,. along with the economic contribution to NZ.

Dairy  export receipts are  nudging $20bn  a  year, up  from $4.58m  in 2000.

But  now  the  industry  is  facing  its biggest  challenge.

Dairy  cattle are  responsible  for  22% of  NZ’s emissions. Can  NZ  meets  its methane  emission  targets  without  slashing  the   size of the  national  dairy  herd? . . 

Cow methane vaccine could be emissions game-changer :

Mitigating New Zealand’s agricultural emissions is an ongoing process, but the development of a methane vaccine for cows and other livestock could be a game changer.

A homegrown group is on the cusp of a revolutionary result with it.

The vaccine works by triggering the cow’s immune system to create antibodies that stop methane-producing microbes from working, reducing a cow’s gas production and its contributions of greenhouse gases.

Jeremy Hill, chairman of The Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, told Seven Sharp the vaccine works the same as most vaccines. . .

Bremworth refuses to back down from its support of New Zealand wool:

A global synthetic flooring manufacturer is threatening legal action against iconic New Zealand wool company, Bremworth, as consumers increasingly opt for wool carpets amidst growing awareness of the link between synthetic carpets and plastic.

As sales of its wool carpets escalate, Bremworth has been targeted with a letter from lawyers acting for Godfrey Hirst, owned by US-based Mohawk Industries which also owns Feltex. Amongst other things, Godfrey Hirst is demanding Bremworth withdraw a number of key claims in its marketing campaign that promotes New Zealand wool, including as a natural, more sustainable alternative to synthetic carpet fibres made from plastic.

The new CEO of Bremworth, Greg Smith, said: “We see this legal threat as a distraction and an attempt to stifle legitimate competition and consumer choice. We won’t shy away from promoting the virtues of wool and countering misconceptions in the market to enable customers to make well informed flooring choices – and we firmly stand by our decision to focus on wool and natural fibres.” . .

Project explores wool innovation :

A New Zealand research project has unveiled a suite of innovative wool products with global export potential.

The Wool Research Organisation of NZ (WRONZ) showcased the products at an event to celebrate the achievements from its New Uses for Strong Wool programme, supported by research, industry and funding partners.

The unique wool particles, powders and pigments developed have global export potential for applications as diverse as cosmetics, printing, luxury goods and personal care.

A commercial development company, Wool Source, has been formed to develop the new products and assess market demand for the strong wool innovation. . .

Primary products push exports to a new high :

New Zealand exports reached a new high in June 2021, off the back of record export values for logs and beef, Stats NZ said today.

In June 2021, the value of all goods exports rose $871 million (17 percent) from June 2020 to $6.0 billion. The previous high for exports was in May 2021 ($5.9 billion).

Exports of logs and wood reached a new high, up $105 million (23 percent) from June 2020 to $561 million in June 2021. This increase was driven by logs. Logs’ export value rose $87 million to reach record levels, driven by an increase in unit values (up 26 percent). . . 

A good year for wine lovers – latest and greatest on show at the New World Wine Awards:

Wine drinkers have lots to look forward to as wine show season gets underway and wines from some of New Zealand’s latest and greatest vintages are put to the taste test.

The New World Wine Awards judging starts today in Marlborough, with an independent panel of experts spending three full days pouring over more than 1,100 wine entries. After swirling, sniffing, sipping and spitting, their scores will whittle the field down to the best of the best: the Top 50 wines that will be available for $25 or less in New World supermarkets nationwide.

The majority of the entries will be wines that were harvested and made in 2019, 2020 and 2021 – each a year hailed for its unique combination of ideal growing conditions and grape quality. . .


Rural round-up

10/05/2021

Fonterra boss Miles Hurrell says turning around the dairy giant has not been smooth sailing – Tina Morrison:

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell faced a daunting task when he was asked to take the helm of the country’s largest company in 2018, but he is getting the dairy giant in shape.

The co-operative owned by its 10,000 farmer suppliers and supporting some 20,000 employees was heading for its first annual loss since its creation in 2001 after a period of big expansion failed to deliver the promised profits and left it saddled with too much debt.

Hurrell, an 18-year veteran of Fonterra and head of the Farm Source unit that worked with farmers, talked with his wife and a few close friends who backed him to take on the challenge of what was looking like a tough couple of years.

“I was under no illusion at that point in time about what needed to be done,” he says. “Clearly we needed to go about doing things differently.” . . 

Living the good life after ‘bovis’– Sally Rae:

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for South Canterbury farmers Kelly and Morgan Campbell since their cattle were the first in New Zealand to be depopulated due to Mycoplasma bovis. But they have come out the other side with a new business venture. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

On a lifestyle block in rural South Canterbury, Kelly and Morgan Campbell are living the good life.

Residing in their dream home, surrounded by hundreds of happy hens, their seemingly idyllic existence belies the roller-coaster ride they have lived the past few years.

Morgan Campbell arguably summed it up best by saying: “it’s a crazy story … with lots of kinks and curves … along the way. Dead cows, IVF and chickens.” . . 

Sheep numbers plummet by 800,000 in a year – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s sheep numbers plummeted by almost a million in 2020, new data shows.

Figures from Stats NZ put the sheep population at 26 million for the year ended June 2020, a fall of 800,000 from the previous year and a far cry from the peak of 70 million sheep in 1982.

Stats NZ agricultural production statistics manager Ana Krpo said widespread drought conditions and feed shortages were a major factor in the 3 per cent fall.

“Hawke’s Bay had the largest decrease, with the total number of sheep falling by 12 per cent (346,000) from the previous year to a total of 2.5 million as at June 2020.” . . 

Too many customers, not enough grapes, Marlborough winemakers struggling to match demand – Hugo Cameron:

Key export markets are thirsty for Marlborough wine, but low grape yields mean that demand is outstripping supply.

Frost and cold weather early in the season led to smaller harvests from many vineyards in the area and the smaller crop could leave some wineries facing tough decisions on who they can supply over the next year, industry group Wine Marlborough says

Caythorpe Family Estate owner Simon Bishell said the grape yield was about 25 to 30 percent down on the normal volume.

The business had seen plenty of fresh interest, but supplying those new customers after a slim harvest was a challenge, Bishell said. . . 

100 years on the land – Shawn McAvinue:

The Frame family recently celebrated 100 years of farming Burnbank in Teviot Valley. Shawn McAvinue talks to Bill and Gwenda Frame about how four generations have transformed the land from an unfenced block covered in gorse and rabbits to a productive sheep and beef farm.

A blanket of snow covered the land when Bill Frame was born on the sheep and beef farm Burnbank in Teviot Valley, on New Year’s Day in 1932.

When the snow melted, rabbits covered the farm in Dumbarton, near Ettrick.

As the baby boy grew, so did the rabbit population, and a dream was born. . . 

Meet challenges head-on says Beef Achiever Tracey Hayes – Shan Goodwin:

IF there is piece of advice Tracey Hayes believes has the power to guarantee a prosperous future for every sector of Australia’s beef industry, it’s the idea of never shying from a challenge.

Don’t turn a blind eye to what’s difficult, regardless of how insurmountable it may appear. Instead focus on precisely that.

These were the words from Ms Hayes after she was named the 2021 Queensland Country Life Beef Achiever at Beef Australia in Rockhampton last week.

Ms Hayes is an agribusiness executive with a beef production background and a down-to-earth persona that has made her one of the most liked, and respected, identities in the cattle game. . . 


Rural round-up

28/02/2021

Meat processing industry supports move away from coal, but concerned about livestock cuts:

New Zealand’s largest manufacturing industry is generally supportive of the Climate Change Commission’s draft report and its focus on reducing the use of fossil fuels but is concerned about the stated 15 per cent reduction in sheep, cattle and dairy numbers.

Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, says red meat processors and exporters are committed to reducing and eventually eliminating the use of coal, although achieving the commission’s 2037 target will be difficult.

“We do need a fair and just transition away from coal to ensure jobs and livelihoods are not put at risk.  However, our chief concern is any drop in livestock numbers may jeopardise the viability of some processing plants and jobs in rural communities.

“Meat processors rely on throughput of livestock to create efficiencies of scale and be profitable. The commission estimates that without major on-farm practice change and new technologies, a 15 per cent reduction in livestock numbers will be required to achieve the targets by 2030. This would have a serious impact on the ability of many processors to keep operating. . . 

Meat industry calls for Covid vaccine priority :

The meat processing and export industry wants its workforce to be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccinations.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said the industry was considered high-risk, due to the large numbers of people working closely together.

Countries such as Australia, the US and the UK have all had Covid-19 outbreaks at meat processing facilities.

“We saw a significant increase in the spread of Covid in that workforce, which led to the closure of plants,” Karapeeva said. . . 

Time for UK to ‘walk the talk’ – Todd Muller:

One of life’s commercial shibboleths is that one should be wary of going into business with close friends because emotion is always involved.

But shibboleths are meant to be broken – as we have proven with our dear friend Australia over 40 years. You can have remarkably close economic relations with mates, and it can work.

You have to have a unifying idea (in our cases, closer economic integration and freedom of movement) and the strength of relationship to say it like it is.

So, I believe it’s time to address the elephant in the trading room. The eye-watering gap between the UK’s rhetoric on free trade and its current approach to NZ.  . .

 

Fonterra details how farmers will be paid for sustainable, high value milk :

Fonterra has released the details of how it will pay farmers for producing sustainable, high quality milk as part of The Co-operative Difference framework.

From 1 June 2021, up to 10 cents of each farm’s milk payment will be determined by the farm’s sustainability credentials and milk quality.

“Fonterra farmers are already among the world’s best in these areas and we’re really proud of that. The Co-operative Difference payment is another way we can recognise farmers, while also supporting our strategy to grow the value of our New Zealand milk by responding to increasing demand around the world for sustainably produced dairy,” says Richard Allen, Group Director, Farm Source. . . 

Volume of wine on the rise :

The total volume of wine available for consumption in New Zealand rose in 2020, Stats NZ said today.

“The volume of wine available to the New Zealand market was up 4.3 percent in 2020, in contrast to falls in each of the previous two years,” international trade manager Alasdair Allen said.

“This year’s wine volume available to the domestic market is nearly 113 million litres, surpassing the previous high of 2017.”

The volume of wine made from grapes rose 4.9 percent to 94 million litres, following falls of 2.7 percent in 2019, and 2.6 percent in 2018. . . 

FarmIQ adds value to compliance:

The demands on farmers to become more compliant have grown significantly in only five short years, with expectations from the public, processors and government all requiring greater accountability for how resources of land, water and people are managed.

Regardless of what government is running New Zealand, it is more likely than not the regulations proposed or in place around water and land management are not going to change significantly. New Zealand’s need to stake its reputation as a food producer delivering high quality, sustainable products requires regulatory effort to deliver on that promise.

As the demands around compliance have grown, the ability to capture data that proves a farmer is compliant in areas of environmental management, health and safety and ultimately green-house gas emissions has never been greater. . . 

 


Rural round-up

27/02/2021

Study: Farmers help identify solutions to reduce farm footprint :

New DairyNZ research shows farmers can identify ways to increase efficiency and reduce environmental footprint – but there will be challenges for some.

The Greenhouse Gas Partnership Farms research project worked with farmers to identify and model how their farms might reduce both nitrogen loss and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Making these gains will be the first steps as farmers work towards the government’s 2030 climate change targets,” said DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Dr Bruce Thorrold.

For some farms, the research identified options that offered lower footprint and higher profit. For already highly efficient farms, footprint gains tended to come at a cost to profitability. . .

You can read more about the study here.

Fonterra narrows 2021 earnings guidance:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced it has lifted the bottom end of its 2021 forecast earnings guidance and narrowed the range to 25-35 cents per share, from 20-35 cents per share.

“That is why we have come out today with narrower forecast earnings range of 25-35 cents per share, which still reflects the usual uncertainties we face over the course of any given year.

“Despite the challenges and flow on effects of COVID-19, the team have remained committed and disciplined. There has been strong demand for the Co-op’s New Zealand milk and we’ve continued to get product to market.” . .

Dairy and meat drive large fall in exports:

The value of total goods exports fell 10 percent in January 2021 from January 2020, to $4.2 billion, led by falls in dairy and meat, Stats NZ said today.

“The fall in exports of $486 million was the largest year-on-year fall in exports since March of 2016,” international trade manager Alasdair Allen said.

The fall in exports was led by a drop in dairy products with milk powder, down $97 million, butter, down $62 million, and whey, down $31 million from January 2020.

“The drop in dairy exports was partly due to a fall in quantity for whey products to one of New Zealand’s top export trading markets, the United States. Exports of dairy were the largest fall for the US in January 2021, specifically exports of whey,” Mr Allen said. . .

Kiwifruit harvest taster day registrations open:

An initiative giving people an insight into working in the kiwifruit industry over harvest is about to kick off.

The initiative – led by New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI) and funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) – sets its sights on encouraging jobseekers to take up employment in the kiwifruit industry by providing a free harvest taster day for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. It follows NZKGI’s successful winter pruning and summer-work taster programmes in 2020.

NZKGI Education Co-ordinator Di Holloway says the kiwifruit industry needs a workforce of more than 23,000 people from March to July. . . 

NZ challenged to buck trend on climate conservatisml – Marc Daalder:

Lord Deben, chair of the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Committee, says New Zealand has a unique opportunity to lead the world on reducing emissions, Marc Daalder reports

New Zealand’s attempts to treat methane from cows differently from other greenhouse gases puts its international reputation on climate change at risk, but if it can jump that hurdle, the country has the opportunity to help lead the world on emissions reductions, the chairman of the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Committee tells Newsroom.

Lord Deben, formerly a longtime Conservative Party MP and agriculture minister with the given name John Gummer before being made Lord Deben in 2010, spoke to Newsroom as part of a “virtual visit” to New Zealand. He also addressed environment spokespeople from different parties in Parliament and spoke at the National Party’s summit for its environmental wing, the BlueGreens. . . 

WayBeyond offers agriculture industry alternative to Microsoft :

New Zealand Tech innovator WayBeyond is taking on Microsoft’s Power BI and Excel products to give growers an alternative solution for integrating all their business data into one digital platform.

“Historically the technology to manage your data was limited. Growers have gotten used to spreadsheets and other historical tools, however solutions now exist that are specifically created for agriculture and can address some of the biggest pain points – access to real time data and everything in one central view. This is what Data Studio now offers,” says Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Morgan.

“Being agriculture focused means we can have a relationship with our customers supporting them in a way these generic products can’t. We’re offering an easy-to-use option without the need to be a data analyst or spend countless hours pulling information together manually into a spreadsheet.” . .


Rural round-up

16/12/2020

Agriculture minister warned of impact of Covid-19 on industry’s future – Eric Frykberg:

Minister of agriculture Damien O’Connor has been has warned that the primary sector faces strong headwinds as the impact of Covid-19 lingers on into coming years.

In its traditional briefing to the incoming minister, the Ministry for Primary Industries said the global economy was forecast to decline by 4.4 percent this year.

Although agriculture withstood the impact of Covid-19 better than most sectors and enjoyed growth of 4.6 percent annually between 2010 and 2020, it would be exposed to weak demand from a nervous world economy, and some sectors were likely to struggle financially.

This problem would be especially severe as governments around the world eased back on fiscal and monetary stimulation, thereby reducing the buffer between ordinary businesses and general economic conditions. . . 

Government warned about potential spread of wilding pines – Eric Frykberg:

The government has been warned that without controls, wilding pines could cover one fifth of all New Zealand’s land area by 2035.

The warning came in a briefing to the incoming minister of biosecurity, Damien O’Connor.

These briefings come after every election and alert an incoming minister to the main problems that must be dealt with.

The briefing from Biosecurity New Zealand, which is part of MPI, said some progress had been made in dealing with wilding pines. . . 

1980s downturn recorded in book – Linda Clarke:

Mid Canterbury farmers today are among the most productive on the planet, but 35 years ago they were angry and bitter about government policies that were driving some from their land.

The rural downturn of the 1980s had a big impact on the district’s farmers and their families. The businesses of Ashburton suffered, too.

Emotional and hard decisions made then continue to have ramifications for some families today, says first-time author Alison Argyle, who has published a book about the downturn and its resulting grief, stress and challenges.

She spent nearly three years interviewing 40 farmers, workers, farm consultants, bankers, social workers and others and has woven their stories into a 130-page book called The Half Banana Years. . .

Strawberry prices squished as exports drop :

Strawberry prices fell 43 percent in November 2020 as COVID-19 border restrictions reduced exports, Stats NZ said today.

Soaring air freight costs since COVID-19 border closures has made exporting products much more expensive, and a shortage of international workers in the fruit picking industry has meant that growers can’t pick their fields fast enough, meaning that many berries are too ripe for exporting.

“With less exports there is more supply available for domestic consumption, causing lower prices,” consumer prices manager Katrina Dewbery said.

Strawberry prices were an average price of $3.45 per 250g punnet in November, down from $6.04 in October. . . 

Lamb numbers up, despite a challenging year for farmers – Bonnie Flaws:

Despite tough droughts and meat processing restrictions as a result of Covid-19, farmers have achieved a near record number of lambs this season.

For every 100 ewes, an average of 130 lambs were born compared with an average of 124 over the prior 10 years, Beef and Lamb New Zealand says.

Its Lamb Crop Outlook report for 2020, which forecasts the next year’s exports, showed the total number of lambs born this year was only slightly less than in spring 2019 when 131 lambs were born for every 100 ewes. . .

What does resilience really mean? – Lorraine Gordon:

Story brought to you by THE REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE ALLIANCE and FARMING TOGETHER PROGRAM.

In November 2019, off the back of the toughest drought in Australian history, my family farm at Ebor was ‘smashed’ by the Ebor fire at one end of the property and the East Cattai fire at the other end.

This took out approximately 20kms of boundary fence and $700,000 in infrastructure. These catastrophic fires completely devastated our landscape in a few hours.

Come March, we had just re-opened our farm tourism and function centre, when COVID-19 hit. This shut down our tourism business for much of the remaining year.

This is a familiar 2020 story for many Australians. It initiated a deep dive on my behalf into what makes people and landscapes truly resilient. . . 


Rural round-up

03/12/2020

Farm group challenges MPs on climate change emergency:

A group of farmers and scientists set up to present facts on ruminant Methane are challenging MP’s about the popular claim that 48% of NZ’s emissions that constitute the emergency come from agriculture. The group have told MPs that the Ministry of the Environment has fabricated evidence on climate to support claims of deteriorating weather resulting from climate change. They are misleading the public and falsely blaming farmers to concoct an emergency.

The letter also claims that the natural Carbon/Methane cycle is ignored to make it look like farmers are responsible for a much higher level of emissions than is actually occurring.

F.A.R.M.’s Chairman, Robin Grieve said, “Farms are utilising as much CO2 as they produce when they grow grass and sequester CO2 in the soil. While the country’s livestock numbers are stable, as they have been for a decade, no additional Methane is entering the atmosphere so no new warming is occurring.  . .

Largest drop in terms of trade in a decade as dairy export prices sour:

Lower export prices for dairy, meat, and logs in the September 2020 quarter led to the biggest drop in terms of trade since June 2009, Stats NZ said today.

Export prices fell in the September 2020 quarter, down 8.3 percent from its highest ever level in June 2020. This is the third largest fall in export prices since the series began. Import prices fell 3.7 percent, resulting in a terms of trade fall of 4.7 percent.

The terms of trade measures the purchasing power of New Zealand’s exports abroad and is an indicator of the state of the overall economy. A fall in the terms of trade means the country can buy fewer imports for the same amount of exports.

“Export prices for dairy products fell 12 percent overall in the quarter,” business prices manager Bryan Downes said. . . 

Cheesemakers encouraged to enter Champions of Cheese Awards:

While most Kiwis are considering what local cheese to enjoy this festive season, NZ Cheesemakers are being encouraged to enter the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2021.

Entry opens on Tuesday 1 December and entries will be accepted until Wednesday 3 February. Judging for the 19th NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2021 will be held at Ignite Colleges on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 February 2021. Medal winners will be named on Tuesday 16 March with the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Gala Dinner in Hamilton on Wednesday 5 May 2021.

The Awards are owned and organised by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA) and NZSCA chair Neil Willman said they celebrate the best NZ cheese as well as helping improve quality by providing benchmarking and feedback to cheesemakers. He says the Awards play a key part in the Association’s promotion of local cheese. . . 

Venture Taranaki report shows 207,000 hectares of Taranaki land suitable for horticulture:

Venture Taranaki has released an assessment on Taranaki’s land and climate, which provides an overview of our region’s growing capability, and the opportunity to help meet long-term goals of building diversity, value, sustainability, and market and supply-chain resilience.

A key finding of the released Taranaki Land and Climate Assessment is that there are around 207,000 hectares of land potentially suitable for generic horticulture within the boundaries of the Taranaki Regional Council.

The eight mainstream crops covered in the assessment include apples, kiwifruit, avocados, blueberries, hops, hemp and CBD cannabis, hazelnuts and walnuts, potatoes, and wine grapes. . . 

MPI calls for proposals to research regenerative farming practices:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is calling for proposals for projects that will investigate regenerative farming practices.

Funding for successful proposals is available through MPI’s Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) co-investment fund. The fund aims to have projects under way by mid-2021.

“There is increasing interest from farmers and the wider community about regenerative agricultural practices, but definitions for regenerative agriculture can vary dramatically,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s Director Investment Programmes.

“We’re looking to define what regenerative agriculture means from a New Zealand perspective, and develop a sound evidence base to test and confirm what works in our soils, climates, and farming systems.” . . 

Australian agriculture already where it needs to be – Georgie Somerset:

Against all the odds stacked against us – drought, floods, bushfires, COVID, and disruptions to international trade – Australian farmers produce world-class food and fibre for the rest of the country and the world to enjoy.

We do it by caring for our two greatest assets (besides our people): our land, and our livestock. To do otherwise undermines everything about farming itself.

We need our land kept in the best condition possible; we need happy, healthy animals to ensure we deliver the best quality produce. It doesn’t work, at least not very well, any other way.

As an industry, we have already reduced CO2 emissions, down more than 55 per cent since 2005, increased documented biosecurity plans for cattle properties, up from 25 to 90 per cent, achieved 99 per cent compliance with Australian standards for chemical residues, decreased our water usage, and improved the use of pain relief for livestock. . . 

 


Rural round-up

21/11/2020

European potato ‘dumping’ hurting– Toni Williams:

An influx of European potato fries into New Zealand has already impacted on domestic growers, with less product planned for growing and staff job losses.

Hewson Farms, in Mid Canterbury, grows on average around 350ha of potatoes a year as part of its operation. It grows a large tonnage for McCain Foods, but it also grows onions, wheat, ryegrass, clover, hybrid vegetable seed, seed carrots, beetroot, hybrid rape kale and linseed.

Director Ross Hewson said the influx of European fries into New Zealand, as shown in New Zealand trade figures, resulted in more than 40 containers of product flooding into the domestic market.

There was an even larger influx into Australia, he said. . . 

Lewis Road: a tale of two butters – NIkki Mandow:

The (true) story of how a former global advertising guru with a passion for making patisserie and a former international banker and property investor with a passion for dung beetles may just have produced that rare prize – a New Zealand value-add dairy export brand

Anyone shopping at the gourmet Central Market grocery store in Austin, Texas last year might have been surprised to know that the middle aged man handing them a slice of bread and butter to taste wasn’t a down-on-his-luck casual retail worker, but a high net worth Kiwi businessman on a mission to reform New Zealand dairy.

Former Saatchi & Saatchi global boss Peter Cullinane, better known in New Zealand as the guy that sparked that chocolate milk madness in 2014, was accompanied on those trial-by-in-store-tastings by his Lewis Road colleague and company general manager Nicola O’Rourke.  . .

2020 Agricultural Journalism Awards:

Winners of the 2020 NZ Guild of Agricultural Journalists & Communicators Awards were announced at the eighteenth anniversary dinner, sponsored by Ravensdown, in Wellington on Friday 16 October.

Following are the award-winning entries. Most are linked to online items, but some are in pdf format requiring Acrobat Reader.

Ministry for Primary Industries Rongo Award

This award is for excellence in journalism in the primary sector. . . 

Tech-Talk – supporting supply chain transparency :

Consumers are increasingly calling for more transparency within supply chains and University of Canterbury PhD student Pouyan Jahanbin wants to do something about it.

Jahanbin knew that issues such as sustainability, child-labour and animal welfare were impacting consumer choices so he decided to develop a tool which will give people information about products at the point of sale, in real time.

Part of his research in Information Systems (IS) aims to comprehend the needs of all participants in the food supply-chain in order to develop an app that allows suppliers, growers, packers and distributors to share product information with consumers.

Pouyan says using blockchain technologies will improve trust and transparency of information and make verifying and sharing it easy. . . 

Producer prices whey down for dairy manufacturers:

Prices paid to dairy product manufacturers fell sharply in the September 2020 quarter, reversing gains in the March and June quarters, Stats NZ said today.

Despite falling 13 percent in the September quarter, the price level remains relatively high, similar to the highs observed in 2013.

“In the three months to September, prices fell for a variety of dairy products traded in the Global Dairy Trade auction, dipping from higher levels seen earlier in the year,” business prices delivery manager Bryan Downes said.  . . 

Significant Queenstown station up for sale:

One of New Zealand’s most prominent alpine properties has been listed on the open market for the first time in 40 years.

Halfway Bay Station – a phenomenal 18,000-ha station located on the shores of Queenstown’s majestic Lake Wakatipu – is now up for sale through premium real estate agency New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty (NZSIR). A large and unique landholding of this scale is likely to receive offers in excess of $50 million.

NZSIR sales associates Matt Finnigan and Russell Reddell say they are anticipating interest in the property from Kiwi residents and syndicates, expats and internationals. . .


100 years of stats

24/10/2020

StatsNZ has illustrated some of the changes in spending through the decades:

 


Two parents better than one

15/09/2020

Is anyone surprised by this?

Sole parents of dependent children report lower levels of wellbeing across a range of measures, Stats NZ said today.

Data from a new supplement, added to the June 2020 quarter of the household labour force survey, shows that 15 percent of New Zealanders aged 18 years or older rated their overall life satisfaction as low (a score of 0–6 on a scale of 0–10, where 0 is completely dissatisfied and 10 is completely satisfied). However, nearly twice as many sole parents gave this low rating (27 percent), compared with only 12 percent of partnered parents to dependent children. The majority (83 percent) of these sole parents were women.

“The lower life satisfaction ratings illustrate the difficulties many sole parents face across a number of measures that are key to a person’s subjective wellbeing,” wellbeing and housing statistics manager Dr Claire Bretherton said. “Historically, people’s experience in income, health, loneliness, and housing quality had a strong relationship with overall life satisfaction, and sole parents fared poorly across a number of these areas.”

Eighteen percent of sole parents stated that they did not have enough money to meet everyday needs. This compared with only 5.2 percent of partnered parents and 6.2 percent of those who were not a parent to a dependent child. A further 43 percent of sole parents stated they had only just enough money.

In addition, one-quarter of sole parents had received help in the form of food, clothes, or money from an organisation, such as a church or foodbank, at least once in the previous year. Of those who received this form of help, two-thirds had done so more than once in the 12-month period.

Sole parents experienced higher levels of poor mental wellbeing, as measured by the World Health Organization’s WHO-5 Well-being Index (with poor mental wellbeing classified as having a weighted score out of 100 of 51 or below). One-third of sole parents, compared with 20 percent of partnered parents, and 17 percent of those without dependent children, were identified as having poor mental wellbeing using this index. Seventeen percent of sole parents also rated their overall general health as fair or poor, compared with only 8.3 percent of partnered parents.

Feelings of loneliness were also higher, with 35 percent of sole parents having felt lonely at least some of the time in the last four weeks. One in nine reported having felt lonely most or all the time. 

When compared with the total population, sole parents were nearly twice as likely to have experienced discrimination in the last 12 months; less likely to report feeling safe or very safe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark; and more likely to report lower levels of trust.

Housing quality was also more of an issue for sole parents, with the proportions reporting a major problem with dampness or mould and with heating or keeping their house warm in winter around three times those of other New Zealanders.

“Housing quality is an important factor influencing both mental and physical health outcomes of household members,” Dr Bretherton said. “Housing conditions, and the neighbourhood in which a child is raised, have been shown to affect a child’s overall wellbeing.”

“All of these difficulties impact on not just the individual themselves but also their wider family,” Dr Bretherton said. Just under one-quarter of sole parents gave a low rating (0–6 out of 10) when asked about their family wellbeing, compared with 10 percent of partnered parents of dependent children.

Our children were young during the ag-sag.

In response to that my farmer was working long hours and often away from our farm leaving me as a semi-solo mother.

Parenting young children is demanding, it was hard enough doing it part-time by myself. It must be so much more challenging for those who are full-time sole parents.

Lindsay Mitchell has written several well -researched posts on the benefits of two-parent families. In her latest she notes:

I am constantly frustrated by data limitations because relationship status between parents, and parents and children in some cases, is ignored.

I am not a political conservative. But science finds committed parents (mostly manifested through a marriage) stay together more than any other co-producers of children. Their children demonstrably benefit from this. Most sociologists – and governments by extension –  are impervious though.

That stats are clear, children in two parent families generally have better outcomes than those raised by sole parents.

Stats NZ”s findings on the wellbeing of sole parents shows that adults score worse on wellbeing indicators when there’s only one parent in the home too.

That isn’t an argument for people to stay in abusive or dysfunctional relationships.

It is recognising that it is better for children and parents if there are two adults in the family, sharing the joys, the trials and the day to day ups and downs of parenting.


Rural round-up

14/08/2020

The ugly side of forestry clearly exposed for all to see – John Jackson:

I was horrified at the results of a weather event in the East Coast of the North Island on July 18. Forestry – the catch-cry of the current Government for all pastoral ills and the excesses of our modern lifestyles – stood out like an old man caught with pants down.

In this case, obese, ugly and exposed in all areas, which when clothed is touted as a saviour.

The hillsides where pines had been harvested, recently disturbed and long since naked of pasture, had let hundreds of tonnes of topsoil into the creeks below and onwards in a watery slurry out into the Pacific. Those areas where the slash and logs were contained mid river, turned into massive, festering, ugly boils on the landscape – often against bridges, culverts or anything that impeded their progress seaward.

Out around Tolaga Bay, and up the east coast, the carnage was truly gut wrenching.

New venture to train women in agriculture – Annette Scott:

Southern girl Laura Douglas is bubbling with passion and enthusiasm as she heads up an exciting new venture aimed at giving women a leg up into New Zealand’s agricultural industry. She shares her story with Annette Scott.

Laura Douglas grew up on a deer and sheep farm in Southland.

She always loved farming but admits she ignored her gut passion growing up and pursued a career in the corporate world. . . 

Opportunities for New Zealand goat milk products: what are they and how can we win? – Tim Fulton:

A report released recently by The Nutrition Bureau’s Jan Hales, who engaged me to help with the preparation of the material for the project team.

We are pleased to advise that the report “Opportunities for New Zealand Goat Milk Products: what are they and how can we win?” is now available to New Zealand businesses through our website https://sheepandgoatmilk.nz/resources/

This report follows a 14-month Provincial Growth funded project that looked at the opportunities for developing New Zealand’s sheep and goat milk industries to a scale that could bring significant economic benefit to our regional communities.

It includes information on the estimated size, growth and profit potential of consumer ready products sold in five export markets, and the processing infrastructure and farm supply requirements to meet forecast demand, as well as recommendations on how New Zealand can win. . . 

Vegetable prices continue to grow:

Courgettes and cucumbers reached record-high prices in July 2020, rising more than 30 percent in the month, as Queensland imports continued to be banned, Stats NZ said today.

Fruit and vegetable prices were up 9.8 percent in July 2020.

Courgette prices rose 38 percent to a weighted average price of $29.60 per kilo, up from a previous record high of $21.42 per kilo in June. Some reports showed courgettes prices reaching up to $38.99 per kilo (see Would you pay $39 a kilo for zucchini?).

Imports of fresh courgettes, cucumbers, and other cucurbit from Queensland have been banned this year because of a plant virus. . .

LIC wins ‘Choice’ award for being a top employer:

New Zealand’s leading agri-tech and herd improvement cooperative has today been named as a 2020 Employer of Choice through a survey conducted by HRD New Zealand.

The latest accolade from HRD (Human Resources Director) comes six months after LIC won both the Organisational Change/Development and Best Wellness Programme Awards at the 2020 NZ HR awards in February beating out Coca Cola and Xero in the latter category for the wellness programme title.

Now the cooperative, which employers over 750 full-time staff and nearly 2,000 seasonal staff across New Zealand, has become the only agriculture entity to win an Employer of Choice Award from HRD which focuses on analysis of the HR profession across not only New Zealand but also Australia, Canada, America and Asia. . . 

Lanaco founder advises on mask wear and care and says not all masks are made the same:

In response to Government Covid-19 announcement last night and following its launch at Parliament last week, NZ mask filter manufacturer Lanaco’s CEO Nick Davenport is available to demonstrate and discuss mask availability, wear and care.Lanaco supplies filters to more than 30 mask producers in New Zealand.

Lanaco started making Helix filters to specific accredited standards over five years ago, using a high-tech application of NZ wool, for other people to use to make masks and other respiratory devices.

In the past four months, Lanaco has developed formulations for masks to AS/NZS 1716 P2 (NZ’s national gold standard) and N95 (The USA gold standard) and makes masks to these formulations.

In order to sell them to these standards, the devices must be independently tested, and the manufacturing plant audited. The latter process takes months and is a very stringent process. . . 


Pushing the economy off a cliff

29/05/2020

New Zealand has achieved a new and most unwelcome record number of job losses:

Job numbers fell by a record 37,500 in April 2020, as COVID-19 effects and restricted trading began to impact on the economy, Stats NZ said today.

In seasonally adjusted terms, total filled jobs fell 1.7 percent in April 2020 compared with March 2020, when it was flat.

April’s fall is the largest in percentage terms and by number since the filled jobs series began more than 20 years ago, in 1999.

“With the country in lockdown throughout most of April 2020, the impact of COVID-19 is now being seen in falling job numbers,” economic statistics manager Sue Chapman said.

“Non-essential businesses closed during the lockdown, though some people were able to work from home.”

The government decreed what were essential businesses and permitted them to operate rather than allowing any that could operate safely to do so and this sharp number of job losses is the result.

Stats NZ calculates filled jobs by averaging weekly jobs paid during the month, based on tax data. Filled jobs include jobs paid by employers who are being subsidised by the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.

“While a fall in filled jobs does not necessarily mean employment has ceased in all cases, we saw a rise of over 30,000 people claiming the government’s Jobseeker Support benefit in April,” Ms Chapman said. . .

This month’s figures could be even worse with more than 6,500 job losses this week.

The record number of job losses adds credence to Adam Creighton, writing in The Australian, who says no national leader has been as feted as Jacinda Ardern during this pandemic. But while she might have popular support, the facts are she is pushing the NZ economy off a cliff.

New Zealand’s economy is in strife. Without major change, our constitutional cousin is in decline. Its public finances are in tatters, its biggest export, tourism, has been obliterated — Air New Zealand announced 4000 job losses this week — and New Zealand police now can enter people’s homes without a warrant.

“New Zealand is going backwards, falling behind the vast ­majority of our OECD partners in virtually every social and economic measure that matters,” said Roger Douglas, a former New Zealand Labour treasurer and the famed architect of Rogernomics.

New Zealand ranks fourth last in the OECD for labour productivity growth, and last for multi-factor productivity growth, according to economist Michael Reddell, based on OECD data. Health and education are gobbling up more of the budget as the population ages, with less and less to show for it.

That was happening anyway and has been exacerbated by the harder by the lockdown that used the arbitrary criteria of necessary rather than safe in deeming what we can and can’t do.

The country’s Massey University reckons economic activity will tank 16 per cent in the second quarter, while government forecasts pencil in a 4.6 per cent decline this year ahead of an 8.2 per cent rebound in 2022.

“I doubt the economy will bounce back as the government hopes; and the Treasury forecasts, as bad as they are, will prove optimistic,” former NZ Treasury secretary Graham Scott said.

In one year, New Zealand has blown 30 years of hard-fought ­fiscal rectitude. Its public debt will explode from the equivalent of 19 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 54 per cent by 2022, on the government’s own figures.

Successive governments have been criticised for the 30 years of hard-fought fiscal rectitude. How much worse the current situation would be had they not followed that path,

Scott said expanding the deficit, expected to blow out to 10 per cent this year, was the right thing to do. “But looking further out, comparisons with other countries, such as the US and UK, are no basis to justify our large debt ratios; we’re a small, open economy with vulnerable export industries,” he said, noting the share of exports in GDP had been falling steadily for nine years.

That makes Labour’s ban on oil and gas exploration all the more bizarre. With 0.3 per cent of global GDP, New Zealand can only shoot itself in the foot by shunning fossil fuels. The Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who have not worked in the private sector, spruik the totems of modern left governments — renewable energy, trees, higher tax, equality — but without much to show for it. Plans for a billion trees and 100,000 houses have come close to almost naught, and a capital-gains tax was dumped. Labour made a song and dance about reducing child poverty too, but on six out of nine measures tracked by Statistics New Zealand it is unchanged or worse since 2017, including the share of children living in “material hardship”, which has risen to 13.4 per cent. . .

This column had attracted 102 comments when I read it, a couple of days ago including this gem from Alfred:

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects. 

Jacinda Ardern has unprecedented praise from around the world for her response to crisis but before the Covid-19 response the government she leads had made little or no headway on its key policy planks.

She, and they, have taken the praise for dealing with the health crisis and must take responsibility for the economic one we now face.

But given they didn’t manage to deliver on their promises in normal times they can’t be trusted to come up with, and deliver on, policies to reverse the economic catastrophe for which their insistence on a harder and more prolonger lockdown are partially responsible.


Rural round-up

22/05/2020

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

21/05/2020

“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

16/04/2020

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

09/04/2020

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

27/03/2020

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

13/03/2020

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. . .

 


%d bloggers like this: