Good call


The walkout from the UN racism conference in Geneva confirms that New Zealand’s decision not to send attend was a good call.

I wonder if the hand wringers who were lamenting the decision yesterday will admit they were wrong?

UPDATE: Keeping Stock  posts that Joris de Bres, our Race relations Comissioner is attending the conference. Wonder if he walked out too?

Could Mt Albert go blue?


Labour leader Phil Goff said last night the party was ready to fight a by-election in Mount Albert when Helen Clark resigns.

They may have had a head start because no doubt Helen Clark told them she’d been successful in her quest for a UN appointment before it became public, but National will be ready too.

A by-election gives voters the freedom to send messages they might be more cautious about in a general election and while Clark had a solid majority – 10,351 last year  a lot of her 20, 157 votes  would be personal. The party vote was only 14894 for Labour against 12,468 for National.

I wouldn’t bet the farm on a change of colour for the electorate in the by-election. But I might wager an old ewe if Labour puts up a list candidate whose win would bring in a new list MP who lost her seat . Kiwiblog  mentioned Judith Tizard who’d come into that category, a scenario about which Keeping Stock is less than enthusiastic.

$9.5m for food aid



We’re giving $9.5m in aid to help fight the world food crisis.

The funding would be delivered via NZAid with $7m going to the UN World Food Programme which focuses on feeding people in life or death situations. The remainder would go to the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research for a longer term response.

I’m pleased to see that some of the money is going towards finding a long term solution on humanitarian grounds but also because food shortages threaten world security.

 The CGIAR website  lists its priorities as: 

  • Reducing hunger and malnutrition by producing more and better food through genetic improvement
  • Sustaining agriculture biodiversity both in situ and ex situ
  • Promoting opportunities for economic development and through agricultural diversification and high-value commodities and products
  • Ensuring sustainable management and conservation of water, land and forests
  • Improving policies and facilitating institutional innovation

  I wonder if genetic improvement includes GM and if those who oppose GM would relax their opposition if it meant the difference between people starving or not?

 The website also notes:

 Without public investment in international agricultural research through the CGIAR,

  • world production would be 4-5 percent lower
  • developing countries would produce 7-8 percent less food
  • world food and feed grain prices would be 18-21 percent higher
  • 13-15 million more children would be malnourished

For every $1 invested in CGIAR research, $9 worth of additional food is produced in developing countries, where it is needed most. The evidence is clear: agricultural growth alleviates poverty and hunger.

 The food crisis provides both challenges and opportunities for New Zealand producers and we have a lot of expertise to offer the world. It doesn’t have to be through Government aid either as the Kyrgyzstan New Zealand Rural Trust  has shown.

 The Trust was formed a year ago when the Government stopped funding an aid programme there. It aims to assist with income generation, livelihood improvement and livestock performance.

 The present programme has two main threads:

• Poverty reduction subprojects include potato production and storage, goat production, bakery, sewing shops, milk processing and pasteurizing. Most of these sub-projects have a “social obligation” element where the first group of families assisted under the project will help other families in the community.

• Livestock performance subprojects include establishment of sainfoin (a high altitude legume), improve wintering barns to improve hygiene and survival, and making silage to improve feed quality.

Future programmes may include support for a microcredit agency which will offer Grameen Bank style loans to poor families to invest in income generation activities, as well as continuation of the successful pro-poor and livestock improvement subprojects.

 Update: Oh dear, am I being niaive in my approval of the donation to CGIAR?

No Minister  reckons it’s money down the drain:


That will be the last anyone ever sees of that $2,500,000.


Why don’t we donate $7m of actual NZ produced food and help some local manufacturers. That’s probably about 700,000 blocks of cheese. Then it becomes a win win.

And Whale Oil has a better idea to combat food shortages:


Far from New Zealand putting its money where its mouth is they are putting OUR money where it will evaporate faster than an iceblock in Death Valley.

The single best thing we can all do to combat the world wide shortage of foodstuffs is cancel our obsession with Kyoto and Biofuels.

It wont cost a cent. Best of all it will remove thousands of consultants from government departments writing endless papers on how the department will need to be carbon neutral.






Food crisis might bring free trade


The growing world shortage of food might achieve what years of diplomacy and lobbying haven’t: a reduction in, perhaps even the elimination of, tariffs on food.


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate suspension or elimination of price controls and other trade restrictions in an effort to bring down soaring world food prices.


Adam Smith  links to a Financial Times article by World Bank head Robert Zoellick who makes a similar call. His 10 point plan includes a need to boost agricultural supply and research spending; increase investment in agribusiness; and remove subsidies and tariffs on food and bio fuels.


New Zealand farmers were dragged into the real world when Roger Douglas removed subsidies on farm produce in 1984. We didn’t like it at the time but that was partly because tariffs remained on imports and the labour market was highly regulated so costs stayed up while prices dropped; and we were also battling high interest rates, high inflation, a high dollar and drought.


However, while a few farmers were forced to sell most hung in and eventually adapted to the new order and are more secure because of it. Those downstream weren’t so fortunate. Thousands of jobs were lost on farms, in stock firms, shearing gangs, freezing works, and other businesses which serviced or supplied us or processed what we grew. The lesson from this was clear: the subsidies hadn’t helped producers or consumers, it had just feather-bedded those who take their cut between the farm gate and the kitchen table.


A good season for cropping and dairy farmers makes it easy for them to spurn calls for a return to subsidies but even though they’ve had a horror season I’ve yet to hear a single sheep or beef farmer wanting to go back to the bad old days of when politicians controlled our income. 

Many of our trading partners have yet to understand the harm that subsidies do and New Zealand farmers, processors and the wider economy pay the price for that. This lesson is lost on some in New Zealand including the Greens and NZ First; and as David Farrar  points out it is ironic that free trade advocates are with the UN and Oxfam on this issues while the Greens are siding with the US in supporting tariffs and biofuels.

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