Monday, 26 September 2011

'Trouble at Mill' at both ends of the country!

# Big Farming Story of the Week: ‘Trouble at Mill’ at both ends of the country!

The unfolding kiwifruit crisis is becoming more widely reported in mainstream media and the numbers do not stack up well. Respected rural financier Don Fraser told me Zespri’s 30 million tray production will halve to 15 million trays this season. The crisis affects 2,000 growers farming 12,000 hectares employing 10,000 full time workers and 8,000 part-timers. The $1.2 billion export industry has a downstream economic multiplier of six. Kiwifruit is 10% of the Bay of Plenty’s GDP. As much as 1,500 hectares has been picked for the last time. Whichever way you do the sums, it makes for awful reading.

Flying under the radar, though, is the story of the lamb losses in the deep south following a week of cold, wet, stormy weather. Mind you, as one of my West Otago sheep farming mates said the other day, it’s just as well the bleeding-heart, urban-based media have not picked up on the lamb losses, as he reckoned the last thing we wanted the gathered world RWC press to see was piles of dead lambs at the farm gate. The only suffering we want to see is 15 Australian lambs going to the slaughter!

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Crafar Farms and Farmer Fay.

When Alan Crafar’s family set about building a dairy empire a decade or more ago, I’m sure they had no idea of the political storm they would subsequently cause. Crafar has now become a poster boy for the debate surrounding foreign ownership of New Zealand farms. With the threat of the Chinese yellow peril hovering on the horizon, New Zealand’s farm ownership fate could rest in the hands of the great white knight, Sir Michael Fay, alongside a holy alliance of Iwi and leading dairy farmers.

Fay made a fortune from the deregulation of the 1980s, selling New Zealand assets to offshore owners. But as he is at pains to point out, he’s never sold farm land to foreigners and he’s been “farming” since 1977. Selling banks and telecommunication companies was one thing, he said piously, because they’re still making them. Not so, farm land.

Yet sizeable tracts of New Zealand farm land are now owned by Americans (through the likes of the Harvard fund) and Germans (whose superannuation funds have taken a real liking to Southland dairy farms). I’ve only heard muted opposition to that. The Chinese will soon overtake Australia as our biggest trading partner. We are bending over backwards to secure a Free Trade Agreement with Beijing. Yet we shun their advances to invest in our country while Fonterra freely sets up shop in theirs.

If Michael Fay is the answer, then what is the question? Personally, I’d like to see Landcorp up the ante and buy the Crafar farms for the future benefit of us all rather than see the land go to a select and privileged few.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The First Fifteen?

Will the three wise men let the rest of the country in on the secret?

# Brickbat: The English rugby team.

The Poms are the only outfit at the RWC who can make the Auckland public transport system look quick. The only minnows they haven’t struggled against thus far are the dwarfs they tossed aside at the Altitude Bar in Queenstown.

# Bouquet: Provincial New Zealand.

While the Rugby World Cup has been a runaway success the length and breadth of the country, with the unfortunate exception of Christchurch, there can be no denying the provincial heartland has truly taken the RWC to its bosom. The likes of Whangarei, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Napier, Palmerston North, Nelson and Invercargill have been a welcoming haven for the likes of Russia, USA, Canada, Namibia, Romania, Georgia, Japan and Tonga. Smaller centres such as Gisborne, Masterton and Blenheim have adopted the lesser lights of world rugby and welcomed them like prodigal sons, even though they’re not hosting games. They say the RWC will never return to New Zealand again in our lifetime. I say bollocks! We were born to host it.

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.


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