Federated Farmers is calling for Mid-Canterbury farmers to be extra vigilant after four suspected arson attacks early Saturday morning.
The affected farmers in the Tinwald area were woken at 4.30am on Saturday morning to find fields of freshly harvested for crop and haybales ablaze. In one location a shed containing hay and farm machinery was set alight.
Conditions in the area are typically dry and with potential for flames to spread quickly, farmers are urged to organise their own fire suppression equipment.
The fires were within short driving distances from one another, all occurring within a similar time frame and has prompted Police to believe they were an act of arson.
Ashburton police have now launched an investigation into the fires and are asking farmers to report any suspicious behaviour or unknown vehicles in their area, especially at dawn and dusk.
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Millions of dollars are expected to be saved and up to six trucks taken off the road through a new partnership between a Southland Trucking Company and dairy giant Fonterra.
Tapanui's Dynes Transport has developed Southlands first milk transfer station, allowing Fonterra tankers to off-load milk into a 120,000- litre silo at Wreys Bush before Dyne's trucks transport the milk to the Edendale processing plant.
Milk from dairy farms within a 15km radius of the Wreys Bush site will be collected at the hub, cutting tanks servicing the area during the day from twenty down to three.
The next closest transfer station is located at Oamaru and if this trial is successful those involved hope more stations will start appearing around the country.
Dynes Transport managing director, Peter Dynes says the new partnership which is in a trial period is a win-win for both parties.
By taking these tankers off the road Fonterra is estimated to save more than $3 million dollars, while Dynes Transport can better utilise its trucking fleet, securing consistent work for drivers.
Fonterra claims there is no risk to employees and while trucks will be taken off the road, no drivers would be let go.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has released new figures forecasting much higher export returns than expected for this year, to the tune of nearly $5 billion dollars.
The Ministry’s Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries Forecast is published annually, and outlines expectations for the coming year in terms of volumes and returns.
The Minister released the SOPI report’s January 2014 update in Wellington on Wednesday morning, revealing upwards trends for agriculture, fishing and forestry – to a figure of more than 36 billion dollars for the year to June.
Meat exports are picked for a 1.2 billion dollar lift, with dairy underpinning most of the overall rise with a 2.7 billion dollar increase on the last forecast.
Nathan Guy says rapidly growing demand in emerging markets is coinciding perfectly with increased supply across much of the country, and constraints in other countries over the same period.
“This is more economic good news, and shows how the primary industries continue to underpin the New Zealand economy.
“It’s very pleasing to see dairy sector returns forecast to rise by $2.7 billion in 2013/14, and a $1.2 billion increase in meat exports over the same time.”
Mr Guy says these figures represent a “big step” towards reaching the Government’s goal of doubling exports by the year 2025, as well as showing the good work that has gone into improving our production levels.
Primary producer representatives are backing a Commerce Commission inquiry into supermarket chain Countdown, after claims made in parliament this week by Labour MP Shane Jones.
Mr Jones told the house that he has inside information from some Countdown suppliers, who’ve been intimidated by the supermarket’s Australian owners, and asked to pay cash to make up shortfalls or face losing their position on shelves.
Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown, issued Country TV with a statement denying the allegations, saying any MP or supplier is welcome to contact them directly with any concerns, and that they will co-operate fully with a commerce commission investigation, if it is deemed necessary.
Horticulture New Zealand CEO Peter Silcock says his organisation is fully behind any investigation into the chain, if only to stop the ongoing media speculation.
“Either people aren’t saying anything because it’s not happening, or they want to keep their heads down, and they’re worried.
“We fully support the investigation, it’s important that we get onto it quickly and have that discussion.”
Peter Silcock says Hort NZ hasn’t had any similar reports from its grower members, but has received calls encouraging them to look into the issue.
“There are still some people who might be afraid of coming out and saying anything, and that may be the issue, but we haven’t had calls with people saying ‘this has happened to me’, but we have had calls encouraging us to have a look at this area.”
NZ Winegrowers is also backing an inquiry, although neither organisation could confirm any complaints from their growers.
New Rules around the importing of PKE have been proposed by the Ministry for Primary Industries, after concerns around metallic contaminants in some feed shipments.
“Hardware disease” results from cattle ingesting sharp pieces of metal which may slip through the detection system, and in some cases can pierce the animal’s stomach wall.
The MPI outlined a new set of draft rules, which would see 100 percent of PKE imported into New Zealand screened through a 4 millimetre filter, rather than the 60 percent screened under the current system.
Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy says the rules were due for an update, given the increase in imported feed, particularly on dairy farms.
“PKE is an important source of supplementary feed for many farmers, particularly in dry periods like last summer. This will give greater reassurance that it is good quality and safe to use.
“Most imported PKE is already screened onshore and meets the 4mm specification. Every shipment is also heat treated to kill any traces of foot and mouth disease, plus it's fumigated and inspected.
This year, it’s projected that nearly 2 million metric tonnes of PKE will come into the country, most of it from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Federated Farmers’ President, Bruce Wills, says confidence in PKE as a feed source should improve with the rule changes, set to commence in mid-April.
“Being a by-product it is a relatively low value product. This perhaps explains anecdotal reports of foreign objects, like metal shards, being found in feed here.
“These shards, which could be from harvesting, processing and even shipping, pose an obvious risk to animal health.
“While the product is currently screened overseas and treated to prevent unwanted organisms from entering New Zealand, additional screening here will add confidence.”
Federated Farmers last week spoke to officials from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, outlining the country’s biosecurity objectives, and seeking international assurance of accurate reporting.
The new screening rules will be unveiled alongside a requirement for better record keeping by importers, so any biosecurity issues can be easily traced from farm to source.
Farming groups have welcomed the news coming from Canterbury dairy exporter Synlait this week, with an increase in the forecast payout returns to farmers, and a record breaking profit prediction.
Synlait hiked their profit forecast on Tuesday in what was described by Federated Farmers Dairy Spokesperson, Willy Leferink, as a broadside.
Mr Leferink says the increase in payout from smaller processors Synlait and Westland keeps pressure on Fonterra to keep its suppliers happy.
“I haven’t heard anyone complaining, that’s for sure!
“The Fonterra milk price manual is aimed at the model that Synlait is using, so it’s the ideal way to transfer milk into commodities at the moment.”
Willy Leferink says the advance payments from dairy companies is helping many farmers recover more quickly after last years’ drought.
“I think we’re in a good place, even long term – some farmer that were in trouble with banks are shoring up their balance sheets, so I think we’re in pretty good heart.”
Some industry observers say China’s insistence on regulatory reform may put a handbrake on the current full steam ahead mentality from formula exporters.
Synlait’s Managing Director, John Penno, says while Chinese government moves might disrupt our trade in the short term, he can understand the reasoning behind the changes.
Mr Penno says all the market signs are pointing in the right direction, and hopes this season’s positive forecast will be the first of many.
After last week’s worrying discovery of a single fruit fly in Whangarei, growers around the country have endured a tense weekend, and although initial signs are good, it will be weeks before the all-clear can be given.
The Ministry for Primary Industries responded to last week’s discovery by setting hundreds of traps around the Whangarei region, while staff also inspected hundreds of gardens and compost and rubbish bins for any signs of a wider population.
Andrew Coleman from the MPI told Country TV it will take more than a fortnight before any serious conclusions can be drawn, but Hort NZ President Julian Raine says growers won’t let their guard down until the breeding cycle finishes, which could be as late as the end of February.
“There’ll be another couple of week, minimum, to go with the trapping.
You’ve gotta remember we’re talking about the life cycle of the Queensland fruit fly, so if there’s a female that’s laid eggs, they won’r emerge for another 6 weeks maybe.”
Mr Raine says the threat is not just to our fruit and vegetable growers, but also to our $4 billion dollar export industry.
“Each country has its own options, there are a set of international guidelines, but each country will respond individually.
“Potentially, we’re looking at a widespread closing of borders to our produce, full stop, because they don’t want this beast in their country either.”
Kiwifruit Vine Health, Hort NZ and the MPI are all co-operating closely on the response, as a part of a new Government Industry Agreement process.
Details around cost and responsibility sharing will be outlined in July.
The Northland region has been rocked by news of the discovery of a single male fruit fly near Whangarei this week – causing a region wide lockdown on plant and animal movement around the city.
The Ministry for Primary Industries found the single fly in Parihaka, in a lure based surveillance trap, which is one of nearly 8 thousand around the country.
A control zone around the discovery of 1.5km has been set up, through which no fresh fruit or vegetable material can pass.
Further traps are being set up, both within and outside the control area, and MPI deputy director general compliance and response, Andrew Coleman, says the priority now for the Ministry is determining whether the fly is part of a wider population, or, has been the case in the past, is a single insect.
“We’ll be putting another 200 traps in place, in addition to the 20 or 30 traps that were up in this location already.
“There’s about 128 properties around where the discovery was made, and they’ll all get traps, as well as in public areas like reserves and other areas around wildlife.”
Mr Coleman says the main threat the fly poses is to our $4 billion dollar fruit and vegetable industry, but at this stage, exports are continuing from Northland, with strict inspection carried out on material leaving the region.
“The information we have from international trading partners is that they’re happy with our response.
“They have trust and confidence in what we’re doing here, it’s exactly what they would be doing in our position.
“Unless the circumstances change, there’s no impact communicated to us at all.”
Those in the fruit and vegetable sector have responded to the find, with lobby group and industry good-body Horticulture NZ describing growers as “holding their breath” as they wait for more information.
Hort NZ President Julian Raine says it’s an anxious time for the whole industry, and all kiwis should be concerned about the potential implications.
“We are watching the response efforts very closely and providing support and advice to the Ministry where we can.
“Growers appreciate the difficulties this is going to cause for people living within the controlled area that has been set up around the find.
“We thank them very much for their co-operation. It’s not just commercial horticulture that needs their help, but all Kiwis with fruit trees and veggie patches.”
Mr Raine says our international trading partners will be following this story just as closely as we are, and an outbreak here could spell disaster for our exports.
The MPI has set up a Response Strategic leadership team, representing the horticultural industries, and made up of Hort NZ and Kiwifruit Vine Health – the main grower representatives in Northland.
The team will work to establish an Operational Agreement for fruit flies, and share in both the costs and decisions to improve readiness and response to incidents like this one.
Dairy analysts are picking a strong outlook for the year ahead, with potential for even higher prices than we’ve seen over the last 12 months.
Prices at the latest Global Dairy Trade Auction rose nearly one and a half percent on average, breaking the $5 thousand USD per tonne mark.
Supply at the auction was slightly down on a fortnight ago, but financial analysts from ASB have said the result confirms their expectations for the season – and that there is a strong foundation of demand for when production does pick up.
Both butter and cheddar led the gains, up more than 10 percent each on the last sale, while the largest product by volume, whole milk powder, recorded more modest gains, lifting only 0.1 percent.
Skim milk powder was the one underperformer at the auction, falling just half a percent.
ASB Rural Economist Chris Tennant Brown says the positive price movements in butter and cheese is exactly what farmers would have been hoping for, but it may have come too late in the season to impact on the milk company payouts.
“The issue that Fonterra identified last year was that they were producing powders which were really lucrative, but other products were dragging things down a bit.
“If they can’t produce any more powders, the convergence we’ve seen in prices is encouraging, and might favour the mix of production capacity that Fonterra has.”
Chris Tennent-Brown says the traditional volatility in dairy markets seems to have fallen away somewhat, and forward contracts are showing no signs of dragging expectations down either.
“We’re not seeing a drop off in prices for 6 months out, in fact those are slightly higher.
“So buyers aren’t sitting on their hands and hoping for a better price later on down the track, they’re securing their supplies now, and that’s encouraging.
“Those powder prices should hold up there, and price movements for other products give us encouragement that maybe they’re playing a bit of catch-up.”
The ANZ Bank, meanwhile, have picked a downward price adjustment for the second quarter of 2014, when Northern Hemisphere milk producers hit peak supply, meaning more exportable goods on the global market.
Both ANZ and ASB, however, are picking good farm-gate cashflow for at least the remainder of this year.
In Northland, farmers are facing natural forces of a different kind, as the remnants of Cyclone June bring strong winds and heavy rains to many areas.
Farmers are being urged to move stock into sheltered places and are being warned to exercise caution when clearing large trees, and to consult local contractors if it’s too big a job.
Though, the remnants of the cyclone are bringing rain to many areas whose farmers have been hoping to see a cloud for some time, silver lining or not.
Roger Ludbrook, from Northland Federated Farmers, says landowners should exercise caution when working in high winds.
“The winds have been picking up since early this morning, but they aren’t bad enough to blow people over.
“Our recommendation from Northland Feds is ‘for goodness sakes, be careful’.
Mr Ludbrook says there’s a chance power could be out in some areas if trees fall across power lines – and landowners should wait until conditions clear before attempting a cleanup.
“”If you do have trees down, and they’re near powerlines, use caution at all times.
“The powerlines a hit by trees are our worst fear, unless you have a slip near a road and it’s blocking people off.”
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