Wednesday, October 28, 2009

UK Lord seriously recommending turning veggie to save the planet

It really is frightening when British Government is influenced by the likes of Lord Nicholas Stern, a so called 'academic' and economist who authored the highly influential Stern Review on the economics of climate change.

The man is now suggesting seriously that we all turn veggie - and he has some support for his manic views.

This from Farmers Weekly UK:

People should stop eating meat to help the world conquer climate change, a leading scientist has warned.
"Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases," said Lord Stern of Brentford.
"It puts enormous pressure on the world's resources. A vegetarian diet is better."
Lord Stern's comments are significant because he is the author of the influential
2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming.
'A global agreement to tackle climate change would result in soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases, he said.
People's attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable, Lord Stern predicted.
"I think it's important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating," he said.
Lord Stern made the comments in a
front-page interview with The Times.
The article has attracted more than 283 comments from internet readers.
"Eating a vegetarian diet is a lot cheaper than a meat one," wrote Jonte Jay.
"Let's face it - the most expensive foods on the average families shopping lists are meat and dairy."
Peter Radcliffe wrote: "Those who refuse to give up eating meat are contributing significantly to the destruction of the planet."
But most comments were far less sympathetic.
Nicholas Fox wrote: "Tell me I'm having a bad dream and not really living in such a ridiculous country."
Reuben Camara wrote: "Forget methane. There is far more hot air emitting from parasite Lord Stern's mouth than can possibly be good for the planet."

When this kind of myth starts to get traction you know that we are in trouble. It is now time to address some of the balderdash being spouted and to fight back. Our Government has already in principle agreed that agriculture is helping contribute to the problem. It really is only a slippery slope from there to what Lord Stern is suggesting. Why are we not standing up to this?

Ferrier's paycut a timely warning to other agricultural businesses

Well done Fonterra and well done Andrew Ferrier on taking a whopping great pay cut of $360 000 even if his salary is in the realms of fantasy at $3.62 million a year.

When you look at it on paper, three million seems a heck of a lot to pay the figurehead of an organisation, but converted to US dollars it's paltry compared to what he could get working elsewhere in the world, especially it seems, in a recession.

Have a read of this blog written by Rick Newman in the US regarding the trend upwards of CEO salaries in the States despite the gloomy economic conditions:

It's good to be CEO, even in a recession. Especially in a recession.
Hewlett-Packard's stock price fell 29 percent in 2008, and the company announced plans to lay off 25,000 workers after it acquired Electronic Data Systems. But CEO Mark Hurd didn't feel the pain. Hurd earned $43 million in 2008, a 73 percent raise from his 2007 pay. Perks included $136,000 worth of personal travel on corporate jets, paid for by shareholders, and $7,472 in travel expenses for Hurd's family, according to an
analysis of HP's annual proxy filings by shareholder activist Eric Jackson. Several other top HP executives earning multimillion-dollar pay got double- or triple-digit raises.
[See 10 gaffes by doomed CEOs.]
Hurd has been a strong CEO since he took over in 2005, generally credited with enhancing HP's profitability after a period of drift. But the big pay hikes during a dismal year are generating some of the toughest criticism of Hurd's tenure. "There are some very troubling aspects about how he, his management team and his board approach executive compensation and governance,"
writes Jackson. "Investors should steer clear of this Silicon Valley icon until it gets its act together."
For all the talk of reining in CEO pay and enacting financial reform—even from some CEOs themselves—it's beginning to appear that very little has changed in the way companies are run and executives get paid. A
new survey of CEO pay by research firm the Corporate Library finds that median take-home pay among more than 2,000 CEOs fell by 6.4 percent from 2007 to 2008, the first time on record that CEO pay has gone down instead of up. But that was in a year in which the stock market fell by 37 percent and the economy lost 2.6 million jobs. By almost every measure, the vast majority of companies performed far worse in 2008 than in 2007. "While the downturn has affected pay, the link between pay and performance remains weak," says the report. "Such a minimal decline in pay given the massive decline in shareholder value is hardly an adequate response."
A surprising number of CEOs didn't personally experience the downturn at all. Of 100 industries tracked by the Corporate Library, median CEO pay went up in 40. The 10 highest-paid CEOs included seven from the oil industry, which had a banner year as gasoline prices hit $4 per gallon. The others were Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and Michael Jeffries of Abercrombie & Fitch. Schwarzman earned the most: $702 million. No. 10 Jeffries earned $72 million.
how to pay CEOs what they're worth.]
Reformers want to see much tougher rules linking executive pay to the long-term performance of their companies, and a few CEOs took a step in this direction. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs endured a 97 percent pay cut in 2008, because the tony Wall Street firm rescinded bonuses for top executives. Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase went without a bonus as well, resulting in a 92 percent pay cut. But both of those companies were big bailout recipients under the microscope of politicians and regulators. And both have paid back all their bailout money, which means Blankfein and Dimon will probably do a bit better in 2009.
[Get ready for
the miraculous hollow economy!]
It's likely that overall CEO pay will bounce right back up in 2009 as well. Many CEOs earn a relatively low base salary, with the majority of their total compensation coming from bonuses, company stock, or options to buy stock. The plunge in the stock market last year means the value of CEO-owned stock fell as well, and many CEOs declined to exercise options to sell stock since prices were so low. That has changed in 2009, with the market up smartly. It could even turn out to be a record year for CEO pay raises, as they springboard off of last year's lows. At least somebodies getting ahead.

So good on Fonterra for insisting on a performance based salary. It's just a shame that some of our other agricultural companies are not using the same standard for their bosses and their board sitters...Farmgirl can think of one such fertiliser company that would and should be rife for a pay cut!

Farmgirl on Farming Show

To listen to Farmgirl's latest chat with Jamie Mackay on the Farming Show follow this link:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dollar for dollar with US a looming catatrosphe

When banking commentator Bernard Hickey said it was not out of the question for the New Zealand dollar to match the greenback in the near future, you could hear the collective Prozac popping among exporters.

Surely Hickey is talking balderdash? But hey, it's okay, he went on to say jubilantly, because it's great news for anyone going overseas or buying consumer products.

What was he thinking?

There won't be a country if his dire prediction comes true. There could be no worse economic disaster in this country's history than if our dollar did match the US. All the talk of recession over the past year would be like a bad day at the races in comparison to what would happen in that situation.

It is difficult for the farming fraternity to hear comments such as these when the squeeze is going back on with the Kiwi climbing through the 76 cent mark.

As for Bollard's comments last night that the high dollar was not an impediment to future interest rate hikes, you could only squirm, knowing that will give overseas investors the confidence to keep investing and therefore push the dollar up further.

Just what we needed Mr Bollard...well done...

Throw the bunnies!

For **** sake! If New Zealand rated on a political correctness scale (Farmgirl's pet hate) we would be number one in the world, but sadly it's not an accolade we want.

The latest debacle featuring the SPCA who have stood in and spoilt the farm kiddies fun at the annual Waiau pig hunting weekend by outlawing dead bunny throwing is enough to have you bashing a bunnies head against the proverbial brick wall.

Look, it may not be everyone's cuppa, but that doesn't mean that it should go by the wayside. The trouble is that if we bow down to the SPCA animal welfare aficionados it is going to get worse. So go ahead Waiau - THROW THOSE BUNNIES.

Farmgirl doesn't claim to be the brightest in the den, but heck, even she knows when a rabbit is dead, it can't feel anything, contrary to the namby pamby office sitters that seem to make up SPCA these days.

Imagine what these idiots were like as kids. If the cat caught a mouse, they made you spend all your pocket money on getting the vet to operate, because the poor minced up mouse deserved better than to end its life in the intestines of your pet. They were the type of kids you could never take out to the farm. They hyperventilated when they saw the pile of lambs tails at the end of the tailing pen, and vomited when they saw a bird eating an insect.

Are we now saying that we are not allowed to swing lambs around to help them breathe when they are born, even though it saves their lives?

Come on Waiau...THROW THOSE BUNNIES and fight back for all of us sane people in this crazy country...but make sure won't you, as parents, that your children don't play with their sausages or chops at the dinner table before they eat's cruelty don't you know!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize right on the money

Farmgirl is one of the few that think US President Barack Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

Sure, there's thousands of candidates out there who have swam 100 miles through crocodile infested waters, survived under a hail of bullets and rescued millions of starving children. No, I'm not taking the mickey but I am saying that the judges got it right because they awarded the one thing that is not quantifiable, not easily seen, nor able to be scored on a human rights ledger - they recognised the value of HOPE.

That many are critical of Obama's victory show how materialistic this world has become. Unless someone is starving to death for a cause and giving us a visual recount of suffering, we can't connect the dots. We seem to only understand the concrete.

Yet there was one thing we understood last day where it wasn't about the visual, where we felt good, where unity abounded. Don't deny it..Obama's Presidential win made you feel good because it meant that there was HOPE - hope that we might solve this religious mess, hope that we might overcome the obstacles we see in other human beings who might not look like us (ironically, his win was about overcoming the visual).

You might think then that we as the people deserve the prize for getting him there, but you have to look at Obama's extraordinary journey. He dispenses the HOPE and is working for a bigger cause than you and I...he's working for a peaceful solution, a listening America and just because he hasn't got down in the swamps and saved the many that are drowning in the poorer countries, it doesn't make his journey any less award able.

It took courage for the judges to choose him...just as it takes courage every day for him to be in the highest office in the world.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Key's 'Eva Peron' tour of the States avoiding the emissions issue

You'll have to excuse farmers if John Key's much trumpeted speech in New York last week declaring that Kiwis would lead a global research initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture doesn't leave them braying with joy.

It's not that they don't like the cheerful little's just that he's so damn blatantly desperate to have New Zealand leading the world at something, that he's blindly about to all but sink our economy.

And no - those sentiments are not unrealistic. It is incredulous to think that the Government of the day would commit a country that is banking on its agriculture sector, into an emissions trading scheme that would see the same sector heavily penalised.

It all smacks of that 'little fish' chip on the shoulder we seem to carry around as Kiwis. If we're not at the forefront of everything (think mountaineering, women's vote...domestic violence) then we'll push our way forward, puff out the shoulders and say 'we'll do it mate', even if it does mean less money in the economy, slow economic growth and the difference between profitability and quitting the farm.

Isn't that what asking for a seat on the UN security council was all about after all?

And in all of it there is a distinct immaturity about our attitude, a need to be the teachers pet and to receive adulation from other countries who are not dumb enough to sign their countries to a death warrant.

What happened to the Lange 'up yours' nuclear ethos? Since when did we try to brown nose everyone?

Forget leading the world in research John boy, and sink that money into other agricultural research that scientists are clamouring to know, the kind that puts more money in our pockets - yours and ours.

Ravensdown claim backdown over PKE but haven't gone far enough

Today the PR spinners were busy again, convincing arable farmers that Ravensdown are pulling out of the South Island animal nutrition market due to continuing 'negative' feedback. However, they claim this was in the face of 'overwhelming support'. Which was it then? - negative feedback or overwhelming support? Farmgirl is confused.

But besides this point there is another. The South Island market was small and the meetings where Ravensdown claimed support were about selling PKE into the North Island. It is still many arable farmers contention that Ravensdown should not be importing PKE into any of New Zealand. The North Island market is still undercutting arable suppliers. Therefore the backdown today from Ravensdown is nothing but a PR ploy and is not worth the paper it is written on.

For goodness sakes, if you can understand how damaging this has been, boys, to your reputation as the small concession today recognises, then surely you can extend the hand further and stop bringing in PKE altogether.

Questions still need to be answered as well...if they are promoting a 50/50 percent blend of PKE and barley why is it that they have only taken 6500 tonnes of barley. If you do the maths they sold 50 000 tonnes of the mix last year - doesn't look as though that barley made up 50% does it?

Farmers and Fonterra need to be tougher on those practising calf cruelty

Whether or not MAF finds there is a case to answer of calf cruelty on a Fonterra supplier's farm in the King Country, Fonterra must move quickly to get rid of any taint on their reputation.

The problem is not isolated. Farmgirl knows of a farm in the South Island that had been practising abhorrent standards for many years on a large scale, and had even lost thousands of calves due to neglect, ignorance and incredibly harsh, cruel conditions.

Not only does Fonterra have a need to act, but so does the farming industry in general. Hiding these cowboys when we all know what is going on and not speaking up for fear of retribution will only backfire in the long run.

For an industry to thrive on its wholesome image, it needs farmers to keep an eye out for mistreatment or any practices that could threaten their bottom line.

van der Heyden was right to call on authorities to mount a full scale inquiry into the Crafar farm but he needs to do more. Suspension (in this case there was video footage that he found alarming) as a supplier must happen if proven guilty and a check performed regularly by Fonterra to ensure they are treating their animals better.

Expanding too fast is not an excuse for poor treatment, nor is ignorance. Unfortunately it is not just the Crafars out there damaging the industry, and it's up too us all to stop it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Feds to the rescue

And the handshake of the week goes to Ian Morten, the Federated Farmers Grain and Seed Chairperson for his and the Feds concerted and continued effort to squash PKE imports.

Farmgirl has already voiced her opinions on PKE and how it continues to undermine arable farmers' bottom lines, as well as present a significant risk to all of our industries.

Ian's call this week to report any foreign matter in PKE reminds us all of how ridiculous the entire situation is. The Feds have received 'anecdotal evidence' of insects, soil etc being present in the mix, although MAFBNZ claim there hasn't been any substantial risks so far...

Why are we waiting at the bottom of the cliff with our arms wide open rather than blocking the fall?

It seems simple. PKE presents a risk - get rid of it and support our local cockies instead of their overseas counterparts.

Farmgirl back online

Farmgirl is now back online after a maternity break and has plenty to write about. Much has been happening in between, including some interesting new developments with PKE, Ravensdown's annual report and of course our rock star PM making the rounds in America, still looking like the nerdy boy at primary school who just topped the spelling bee!

Be sure to keep the discussion and comments coming.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Farmgirl on maternity leave but has new important questions for Ravensdown

Farmgirl will be offline for a short time due to maternity requirements, but wants Ravensdown shareholders to consider the following, while waiting for the figures from annual accounts to come out:

1 How is it that if Ballance suffered significantly in the past year due to the global environment and has decided it can't afford to pay a rebate, that Ravensdown is claiming a much stronger balance sheet (again) and paying a rebate. Where is the money for that rebate coming from?

2 Have Ravensdown broken banking covenants and if so how much has that cost shareholders over the past year?

3 What is the debt to equity ratio of Ravensdown now - that is what counts. Pay attention to the level of borrowing and whether foreign exchange earnings is what is paying for rebates rather than profit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Silver Fern Farms money raising a thinly veiled glossover of Richmond fiasco

You have to feel for SFF shareholders. Now CEO Keith Cooper is asking them to stump up with $128 million, apparently in the name of forward progress in the UK consumer market.

Their hard fought co-operative, designed to protect their interests is fast becoming what they term a 'hybrid co-operative'. The translation for that is a co-operative moving away from what it was designed for and if this share restructuring goes ahead you would have to assume that it is only a matter of time before outside shareholders gain some status in the company, even if Cooper is promising that won't happen now.

But why do the restructuring in the first place?


First SFF tries to wrangle the money out of PGG Wrightson, now it's talking all this lovely juvely touchy feely rubbish about needing to be a 'fully integrated market-led company'. Come on, it all looks a bit desperate and more than a little co-incidental in the light of the lack of cash injection from the failed merger with PGG.

Wouldn't it be fantastic if the PR doctors just for once let go of the spin and spoke the honest truth. In SFF's case the statement would read something like this:
"SFF would like to advise that it is charging farmers an extra $128 million in shares and will be trying to find outside investors as well, due to the balls up it made several years ago when those in charge decided that SFF should buy Richmond at all costs. Because of this SFF has been in the poo financially for some time and as you know PGG Wrightson didn't end up joining the party so you, our loyal shareholders will have to foot the bill. But don't worry...we won't sell your co-operative rights down the road just yet...after all farmers are our business...and consumers...flashy UK consumers..."

Farmgirl hopes that SFF farmer shareholders voice their concerns over the restructuring as it is more than a little flawed.

It's funny isn't it how CEO's and directors are paid to go into a company and grow the business and make it financially stronger, yet end up making it bigger and weaker...think US companies answering to DC at the moment. The NZ example in agriculture is not as far apart from that as we might like to think...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Farmers tired of hearing the same old speel from the top

Farmgirl was more than a little dismissive of David Carter's speech to the Federated Farmers conference this week.

He told us to, "adopt new ideas, abandon old ways of thinking and embrace different farming methods"...blah, blah, blah.

This sentence has been trotted out by every agricultural minister since butter was churned by hand. It means nothing and it's not helpful.

When will Carter and his fellow ministers realise that this kind of talk is nothing but condescending as it suggests today's farmers are slow on the uptake and are not looking towards the future.

Farmgirl suggests it's not farmers who need to embrace different methods but more the companies that represent them and the politicians who continue to impede progress by whacking on costs at the farm gate year in, year out with thinly veiled bureaucracy - Kyoto being one such example.

Mr Carter and others that repeat these meaningless phrases (Anderton was equally as good at that - his tongue could roll off thousands of them in a week) regarding the need for farmers to adopt new ideas would do well to visit the Young Farmer Contest in Palmerston North today and talk to this latest generation of farmers. Farmgirl thinks they would teach him a thing or two.

Light Relief - the whoopsies that the camera caught!

Sometimes you just know you shouldn't get out of bed!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Young Farmer Contest wide open this year

Right about now seven young men will be shovelling their nerves into a suitcase and making their way to Palmerston North to face agriculture's ultimate challenge - the Young Farmer Contest.

This year's contestants are all 'first timers' at the Grand Final, so it will be something special to watch and be part of.

What is striking about this year's bunch of bright young things is that most of the contestants do jobs 'off the farm' as well as on it, a marked change from the early days of the contest.

Some have background in rural banking and consultancy work, most have qualifications from Lincoln - showing that today's farmers are better educated and inducted to the world outside the farm than ever before.

Farmgirl feels for every one of them as they prepare for the theory day tomorrow. Having experience the highs and lows of competition as a partner, she well understands how much work and preparation has been undertaken in order for the contestants to front.

It truly is a magnificent spectacle for agriculture and a marvelous springboard for leadership within our sector.

And who will come up trumps?

Farmgirl has heard that East Coast's Mark Guscott may be the one to watch but you never know - Southerners have had more than their fair share of the title over the years so it would be unwise to rule out Otago/Southland's Richard Copland and of course the North Island region's stronghold in Waikato/Bay of Plenty's Andrew Morris.

Be sure to watch the dramatic conclusion on Saturday night, TV 1 at 10.15pm and support our agricultural showpiece.

More annihilation of British Farmers rights

Our poor old British counterparts are suffering yet more draconian public whims with the news this week that a dairy farmer who happened to be grazing his cows in a field with a public access walkway through it, will face $1 million pounds in damages for injuries received by a walker after she was attacked by cattle in Cumbria in 2003.

If ever we needed proof that the general public in Britain has gone barmy, this is it, and it goes to the very heart of why farmers here fought so hard over public access issues here recently - they saw the future - and it looks costly.

According to the Farmers Weekly UK a judge at Preston Crown Court ruled the farmer was liable because he had not properly considered the risk his cattle posed.

"Ms McKaskie (the victim), who was walking her dog across one of Mr Cameron’s fields, is claiming £1m for the injuries she sustained in the attack.While Mr Cameron is appealing against the decision, legal experts warned the judge’s decision could set a legal precedent and mean farmers having to remove cattle from fields.

However the NFU said there was nothing in law to prevent farmers putting cattle and calves in fields with public access.

"It is a concern that following a recent court case in light of the accident that there is a suggestion cattle should not be grazed in fields with footpaths,” the union’s Robert Shearsby told the BBC.

"The NFU advises its members on the requirements of the law and what should be done to minimise risks."

The ruling came after a police officer was paid £10,000 in damages by a landowner after he was trampled by a herd of cattle."

This is of course what happens when the rights of the public are put ahead of the necessity of producing food. Farmers in Britain may own the land but it seems they barely have a foothold on it, and that is why we see so many immigrating to New Zealand. Who can blame them!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ravensdown CEO Rodney Green's job hangs on a transparency thread

Farmgirl, unlike the Radio Network, has managed to escape the bullying clutches of the CEO of Ravensdown thus far and has requested a head to head discussion through the radio forum with Rodney Green but has heard nothing yet.

It is very serious and alarming when shareholders seem to be muzzled by the head of a co-operative and are not being allowed to ask the questions that need to be asked at this point of time.

What is even more alarming is that Farmgirl has received further serious allegations against the CEO and his Board regarding some private dealings that shareholders have no idea about.

This company appears to be no longer transparent and the head of it has far too much power and seemingly a weak or frightened Board.

Farmgirl wants Mr Green to front up and answer these questions:

1 Did Ravensdown have a large cash deficit in last year's accounts from operating activities - that actually they didn't have a $40 million profit but a $40 million loss - it only looks that way due to a change of accounting standards and the favourable revaluation of foreign exchange contracts?
2 Were last year's rebates paid from borrowing, not actual profit?
3 That borrowing to pay rebates is a hugely risky venture and not one that shareholders are aware of?
4 That under these current conditions and the fact that Ravensdown is not in great shape the venture into Australia could only be construed as risky?
4a That the directors may not have been fully aware of Ravensdown's financial situation
prior to its move into Australia?
5 Have they made any million dollar plus settlements out of court in the past three years?
6 Are shareholders aware of what might have been paid via settlement out of court in the past
three years?
7 How on earth can Ravensdown be called a co-operative if its shareholders are ill informed and then threatened should they choose to ask questions?
If Farmgirl and other concerned shareholders are right about the situation with Ravnesdown, then it's time all of us did something about it, took back control of the co-operative and got rid of the rot.
This is not defamation Rodney, this is our right as concerned shareholders to publicly voice our view.
Having worked in agricultural newspapers, and knowing how companies can threaten to pull big advertising budgets if anything negative is written about them, this blog becomes vitally important.
Please, share your views, get in contact with Farmgirl if need be and keep asking these questions of your directors until you get the answers clarified.
We will not be silenced, nor will investigations be dismissed.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Are growers being ripped off with Ravensdown DAP price?

And more from our Aussie commentator - something that we as shareholders have suspected.

"They are ripping off growers blind on DAP at NZ$827/t. DAP has been selling on the world market at US$300-US$330 since the beginning of the year, current prices are at the bottom of the range anticipating additional Chinese capacity for June/July, it is well documented and highlighted recently at IFA Shanghai that DAP pricing will continue to be low due to low demand and expected to trade range bound for the medium term. Freight is roughly US$30/t and port/discharge/handling costs roughly US$25/t. This should mean a co-op that sells at “cost” should be more like US$400/t, maybe US$420 which I believe equates to around NZ$620/t?"

All this when Rodney promised Mid Canterbury arable farmers a forward fixed price no higher than $900 plus per tonne for spring delivery. Surely they're market intelligence research must have been better informed...which puts further questions over their honesty with growers and they're research on the Australian venture.

What an Australian commentator is predicting for Ravensdown and it isn't good for Kiwi shareholders...

This just sent to Farmgirl today from a rural Australian follower of the blog.

"In essence Ravensdown is only offering granular urea and they have made a right royal mess of it in my opinion. They have offered growers a “cost” price of A$525/t, however, the current urea price is $480/t, admittedly at the time Ravensdown spruiked to its Kiwi brethren, the price was over $600/t but blind freddy could see the price was tumbling as world urea prices had already started the forecast fall. The Ravensdown marketing machine (double speak in a suit), managed to fear the Australian growers into prices were going up or remaining high and managed to greed NZ shareholders that the price was hugely profitable. Both of these claims are of course...let’s say...less than honest.
The model that Ravensdown are using is causing a backlash in our rural communities, essentially Ravensdown are attempting to cause the demise of the rural store, it is highly unlikely this will be tolerated once the smoke has cleared and this alone will create a huge cost impost for Ravensdown in order for it to compete long term. Secondly, the idea that there was only one large, unloved player in the Queensland market that need be conquered is a major underestimation, not sure whether by design or folly. The notion that the second tier players, us included, along with our large multi-national, are going to sit by and watch our markets get eroded and rural communities and infrastructure become decimated is ridiculous. Ravensdown are in for a fight they have never encountered before, I think there will be significant focus on reducing their profitability and exposing their integrity.
Already we see Ravensdown are showing off their true colours, a part of the deal with Australian growers was that they must belong to Ravensdown in order to access “cheap” fertiliser, and in fact they forced growers to pay $80/t up front partial share payment at time of order but cannot collect it themselves as they are illegally setup for such a transaction (not only has this decimated possible Ravensdown cash flow, but a very expensive court case at NZ shareholders expense in the making we presume). In order to get the first vessel possible, Ravensdown were forced to sellout the growers and offer large parcels to another fertiliser importer in South Australia, paid for by its NZ shareholders.
There are now several large risks at question, the Townsville warehouse is reportedly full of holes, was never suitable for fertiliser and come September when the wet season arrives, any fertiliser remaining will be dumped or relocated at presumably NZ shareholder expense. The vessel calling Brisbane (our major port) is apparently under question as sales volumes flounder and the vessel has to also go to South Australia to satisfy the non-shareholder customer. Rumours for sure, but where there’s smoke there’s fire. Rest assured, any cracks in the Ravensdown venture will be seized upon, exploited and capitalised on to the detriment of NZ shareholders."

Shareholders should be concerned about Ravensdown...

Farmgirl wants to share some important comments passed on to her by a follower of the blog.

"Have you seen the latest Ravensdown Hot off the Press on their web site.What has been said about having to make profits, banking covenants,pressure to retain bank funding facilities, selling foreign exchange,having to restructure etc is just the tip of the iceberg. No wonder they have the pressure on (you) not to let their true financial position be know to shareholders, but the truth will come sooner or later especially with this Australian nonsense and the current banking squeeze.

In the market Ballance are deliberately squeezing them on prices. Ballance set the price and Ravensdown follow a few days later at about the same level. But with sales back and profits and cashflow required to satisfy their banks they desperately need higher prices in New Zealand -they will never achieve this.

This is a deliberate tactic by Ballance - they want a weaker and weaker Ravensdown in the market in order to grow their own market share and improve operational capacities.

Rodney Green said some time ago a 50:50market was not sustainable and he would grow Ravensdown to be 20% larger than the number two in the market. Ballance are effectively following his advice.

The Australian venture and non fertiliser activities is the only way Green can boast that he has been successful and grown Ravensdown - that is his driving force and the force that dominates Ravensdown's activities - but at what cost - he was not in the industry when other misguided fertiliser co-op's collapsed.

Their accounts may just be legal - but their presentations and PR in explaining their true position are on very thin ice - no doubt they will blame the current economic conditions - but their problems are more fundamental and getting to be terminal."

The worrying truth about Ravensdown's cashflow

An adviser thinks Farmgirl should be focusing on the fact there has been such a large cashflow deficit ($109 million) from Ravensdown 'operating activities' (i.e.core fertiliser activities) in the past year and that the current ratio (85.4%debt/assets) is in such bad shape.

"Paying a rebate with those numbers in such poor shape would seem risky, especially when you compare what Fonterra is doing (no unshared supply, no contract milkers, retaining a large portion of the payout). Fonterra seems to be taking a cautious/prudent approach that should see them through these difficult times."

Is Ravensdown doing the same?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ravensdown not doing anything illegal

Let's be clear about this.
Ravensdown is not doing anything illegal in its financial accounting or in any of its business and Farmgirl is not suggesting anything of the sort.
What Farmgirl is suggesting is that shareholders are not fully aware of the situation financially - by that she means that under the new international accounting standards, although Ravensdown is showing a $40 million profit for the past financial year, the statement of cashflow reflects something entirely different.
This is not opinion - it is fact.
As a shareholder Farmgirl is concerned that on that basis many shareholders may not be as happy about the expansion into Australia as Ravensdown suggests.
Shareholders should always ask questions, and should always question the performance of their company - and for that they should never be punished.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Serious questions need to be asked about viability of Ravensdown's move into Australia

They hate us - those Aussie fertiliser companies that Ravensdown is playing dirty with. And why wouldn't they...Rodders comes in on his big white shining horse to take over the industry, offers the farmers cost price fertiliser and then some, even though it is not maintainable and with a fair wave of his royal hand he wipes out competitors but does he endanger his own shareholders?
Who is paying for Rodney's expansionist ideas? Who indeed...come on Kiwi shareholders, it doesn't take a maestro to work out that if he's not making a profit on the much heralded Aussie advance, the money generated to continue must be coming from somewhere.

Are Australian farmers being put ahead of Kiwi shareholders?

How profitable is the core Ravensdown fertiliser business at present?

And how truthful is Ravensdown being about its profitability, cash flow and debt levels in its annual accounts?

The truth might surprise you.

Keep watching this space over the coming days and ask the questions that need to be asked of your so called 'co-operative'.

Farmgirl talks dairy pay-out and animal welfare with Farming Show host Jamie Mackay

Last week Farmgirl talked to Jamie Mackay on the Farming Show about the dairy industry and pork issues. You can hear what she had to say on:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fonterra forecast extremely troubling for Government trying to go forward...

Well it couldn't have got worse for the Government, one day out from Bill English's carefully constructed first budget. Fonterra has announced a forecast payout for 2009/10 of $4.55, down from $5.10 per kg for this season.

This is serious, regardless of whether the final pay-out is lifted somewhat. Farmgirl understands that there are already many Canterbury dairy farmers on their knees and has been told that anything $5.00 or under could spell mortgagee sales for many that have expanded in previous seasons.

Retailers in agricultural servicing towns like Ashburton have been reporting a drop off in sales across the board, and this will have many retailers reeling. The affects will be large and long term.

The consumer/producer divide Farmgirl has been blogging on over the past few months is about to be narrowed considerably as the general public begins to understand that dairy farmer fortunes are their own fortunes as well.

Carbon Tax suicide to kiwi farmers...

Thank God for that queer species from overseas we like to call an 'expert'. It's the only thing that can guarantee the media's interest. Take for instance the Bain trial where UK 'experts' are taking their fair share of column space, because God forbid we should listen to our own.

It's a very Kiwi way of looking at things. So, let's hope the visit last week from the US Hudson Institute of global food issues director Dennis Avery, might wake the Government up to the lunacy that is carbon taxes.

That a National Government is even considering continuing on down that path is a real betrayal to the nation's farmers who have always supported them.

Avery is an expert on global warming and subscribes to the theory that the world is in a perpetual warming, cooling down cycle.

No matter what your own thoughts are on global warming it is important to understand that a consensus has not been reached by the 'experts' on if it is real or not. And if they can't reach an agreement, why the heck are we still jumping on this emission bandwagon that will devastate our economy.

Avery was blunt and he sure needed to be.

"Do not let them send you out of business. Don't go quietly. Not only will [a carbon tax] kill you, it will kill the entire economy of New Zealand," he warned, saying that as the world birth rate rose, so too would demand for products New Zealand specialises in, particularly high-value foods like lamb, beef, cheese and non-fat dried milk.
However, an emissions tax was likely to render New Zealand uncompetitive in the market.
"New Zealand has wonderful grassland, but guess who else has wonderful grassland? Countries like Argentina, who have more grassland than New Zealand and aren't carrying a carbon yoke around their necks, will be the beneficiary. What is New Zealand going to use to buy its imports if it is not selling lamb and beef? You don't make anything else."
Mr Avery went on to say he didn't have a time line for how quickly New Zealand would destroy its economic base through use of a carbon tax, but "things in this world happen a lot faster than they used to".

Principles are all very fine, except for when they might cripple your country. Like Obama's comedown on subsidies to US dairy farmers, sometimes you have to know when to quit having 'fine moral ideals' and have to face up to the hard truth. Now is that time for this Government.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sight of water going out to sea sickening

In Canterbury at present you can drive to almost any of the major rivers and weep at the volumes of water cascading its way out to sea - wasted.

On the subject of water storage nothing ever gets past the chit chat and good intentions so Farmgirl is hopeful that Bill English's newly announced National Infrastructure Board might actually cut the bull in favour of getting some powerful teeth into the subject of water storage dams.

Homepaddock is right when she says the line-up on the board is impressive. (See

But will they deliver?

The RMA still seems like a major stumbling block in any new infrastructure issue (Central Water Plains) - a problem this Government promised to sort out but it really is time for there to be more than just promises and fancy titles.

We have the water, just not the nous to use it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Freedom Farms pork co-founder distasteful in selling his fellow farmers down the road...

If there is one thing Farmgirl abhors more than any other, it is when a fellow farmer decides to sell the rest down the road to prop up his own business.

Never was this shown as clearly as when Freedom Farms co-founder Gregor Fyfe decided to use the blatant hype surrounding the so called 'sow pig crate cruelty' this last week as fodder to promote himself and his business through letters to the editor that were surprisingly published in a number of newspaper publications.

In them Fyfe said:

"Mike King's expose of intensive pig farming in New Zealand on Sunday (TV One) last night was sickening, but brilliant.
It must've taken a huge amount of courage for Mike to admit that he was wrong to put his name to the NZ Pork Industry Board without first investigating the way the majority of pigs are reared in this country.
Thanks to the efforts of Safe to enlighten him, Mike has now seen the extent of the suffering that many of the pigs living here endure on a daily basis.
And, to his credit, he was so appalled by the conditions (in particular the use of sow stalls), that he felt compelled to tell the rest of the country about it.
Happily for Mike and the rest of us pork lovers, there is an alternative. Many pigs are now being farmed without those crates and fattening pens and there are a growing number of free-range pork products available in specialty stores and supermarkets nationwide.
If you want your pork to come from happy pigs, the answer is simple. Check the label. If it doesn't say free range or free farmed then chances are it's not."

Firstly Farmgirl questions why newspapers would run such a blatant commercial advertisement disguised as a letter in the first place? Fyfe must have been rubbing his hands together gleefully at the free publicity he received.

Again and again in the farming community we see industries diluted by the lack of combined strength among farmers. It happens in the arable industry when farmers succumb to ridiculous wheat contract prices like they are at present and Fyfe has shown when the going gets tough in the pork industry, he bails and promotes himself which in Farmgirl's opinion is the lowest a man can go.

Okay, if he had advised that his product was free range and that consumers had a choice, that would have been alright, but to boot the poor pig farmers in the North Island while they're down by commenting sarcastically on their practices is just unacceptable.

But you know what - this money grabbing betrayer won the week. In supermarkets Farmgirl viewed this very morning in Canterbury, shelves that were normally full of expensive Freedom Farm bacon are near empty.

Farmgirl even bought some bacon from them today as well as many others to test whether their product is worth it's hefty $10.00 for 300grams.

In another irony Farmgirl questioned her local butcher this morning who informed her that they had sold 'astronomical' amounts of pork this week but that people still hadn't asked where it had come from, they just assumed that if it came from the butcher it wouldn't have been in a sow crate.

He thought the issue was crazy and said that most pork farmers have to separate out their sows in stalls for short periods of time to protect them even on so called 'free range farms'.

One thing is certain, there are three identities that benefited from this last week financially, Mike King, S.A.F.E and of course Freedom Farms.

Hope the bacon doesn't taste too bitter in your mouth Gregor...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SFF boss smart in getting PGG to help pay for Rissington...

It's just a little too much of a co-incidence...Keith Cooper and Silver Fern Farms takes PGG Wrightson to the cleaners after Norgate reneged on a merger deal but says the livestock company are still the preferred option for an integrated supply chain partnership option.

Now SFF has cosied up to Rissington in a new deal by merging livestock and marketing staff from the North Island genetics company into SFF, to provide advice and knowledge to lamb suppliers wanting to produce lamb to SFF's contract specifications. In short Rissington will take the place of PGG Wrightson.

The two companies have had a working relationship for several years, with SFF processing lambs for Rissington Marks and Spencer contracts so you have to wonder if SFF was really interested in seeing through a deal with PGG in the first place.

And the $25 million pay-out settlement from PGG would come as a handy deposit on the new acquisition wouldn't it?

As Farmgirl has said before, Keith Cooper is one of the shrewdest CEO's in the country. Perhaps the Pork Board should entice him to jump ship...

Ode to Mike King - This little piggy went to market

This little piggy went to market,

This little piggy took his cash home,

This little piggy ate roast pork,

Then full of tucker -

This little piggy started to roam,

Then this little piggy went...

"Wee wee wee" all the way home

And dipped his snout into S.A.F.E's cashbox...

Give the money back Mike.

Who are the real villans - sorting out the porkers

This from the Dominion Post this morning:

Consumers angry at the way pigs are farmed can force changes to the industry but they had better be prepared to pay more for their pork.
Alan Pearson, owner of Harringtons Small Goods, said many consumers did not put their money where their mouths were when they bought their meat.
"If giving animals a more natural way of life is really important to people, then they need to be prepared to pay for it and not just pay lip service.
"There is no doubt that farmers are commercial they respond to the market. If the market turns around, the industry will change."
Mr Pearson, who also runs an agri-business consultancy and exports free-range pork to Singapore, said free-range could cost more than $3 a kilogram more than pork raised in a more intensive operation.
Raising free-range pigs was more expensive because of several factors, including higher piglet mortality rates from exposure to the elements.
"There is absolutely no doubt that free-range pork is a wonderful product but it's a lot more costly to produce.
"The price resistance is still a factor. [Consumers] get to the supermarket and they buy the cheapest bacon they can find."
He said most farmers were responsible and put the welfare of their animals ahead of profit.
"Farmers are human beings, they like to do the best job they can. Most farmers have an empathy with animals, or they wouldn't be farming."
Hear hear!
And so say all of us...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Farmgirl on Radio New Zealand talking about pork...

Farmgirl had the chance to speak about the current furore on the pork industry this afternoon on Radio New Zealand. To hear her comments go to: and go to about half way through to hear her interview.

Federated Farmers versus Sex Pistol rocker

Who would have thought it gov? Johnny Rotten, the teeth gnashing, spitting, torn punk rocker who hailed anarchy in the UK has a softer side - in fact the gnarled grizzled face Sex Pistol front man likes his butter - British only apparently.

It's a bit of a comedown for his fans though ain't it? God save the Queen and her fascist regime has now become God save our cows and the products of their bowels.

You see Rotten has become the face of a new British butter advertising campaign that extols the virtue of butter made from only British milk - not like that Kiwi stuff, he reckons.
But he didn't count on Federated Farmers Dairy Vice President Willy Leferink wading into battle.
According to Farmers Weekly UK Leferink has invited Rotten see for himself the way cows are kept down under.

“Never mind the butter, it’s the quality of the milk what counts,” Willy says. “While all milk may contain the same basic properties, Kiwi cows are in a league of their own.
“Grazing outdoors on GM-free grass and natural winter feed makes for happy cows and fantastic-quality milk.”
European Union tariffs were the only barriers holding back sales of New Zealand’s Anchor butter in the UK, he said.
“While I’d like to think of dairy farmers as being the rock stars of the New Zealand economy, I’d be pleased to host that old punk rocker, John Lydon, on my farm.
“Perhaps Mr Lydon could use some of the money he got paid for endorsing the British brand to pay for his flight down under.”
Only hand-crafted but expensive British butter matched New Zealand butter for quality, Mr Leferink claimed.
“New Zealand’s climate and quality pasture means we are in an agricultural sweet spot. British consumers literally taste freedom when they eat New Zealand butter.”
Dairy Crest’s butter advertising campaign featuring Mr Lydon sent sales of English Country Life soaring when it aired on TV screens across Britain.
The commercial reminded shoppers that the butter was made with 100% British milk unlike other brands from New Zealand and Denmark.
It was being supported by a website encouraging people to sign a pledge that they were "proud to buy British".
You can watch one of the ads here:

King should give money back

It's laughable how devoutly Mike King denied having any knowledge of the pig industry and its practices on Close Up last night but may-be it's a sign of the times and something that Farmgirl has been blogging over for some time - the growing gap between producers and consumers.

In this case however, the wounded pork industry has never attempted to hide that there are still sow stalls in this country. Pork Industry Board chairman Chris Trengrove should be applauded not vilified by two henchmen as he was last night. What they don't tell you on that current affairs programme is that Chris has been advocating for change for some years and has steadfastly stuck to the cause of helping the industry get past these practices and has been succeeding.

Farmgirl feels the need to explain the financial difficulties the pork industry has faced over the past decade once again. To be frank the industry nearly went belly up because Canadian pork in particular was being imported into our supermarkets at cut down prices. How were they able to get the pork so cheap when you take into account transport costs? - by producing the pork in far more intensive and disgusting systems then this country has ever had.

This has nearly forced all our pork farmers out of business as consumers have been only too happy to buy cheaper pork, no matter the animal welfare standards and no matter the level of hormones etc in the meat.

To expect that all pork farmers will now release their piggy wiggies onto some hallowed green paddock is ridiculous and hypocritical for the following reasons:

1 The price of imported pork means free range operations are not viable unless the consumer

pays a heck of a lot more as they can not produce as many pigs or fatten as quickly.

2 Free range pork is still a niche market - for the wealthy.

3 Some breeds of pigs are particularly aggressive towards one another. Why didn't King show

the results of sows attacking one another? - it's far more gruesome then the footage shown the

other night.

So it seems the NZ consumer has to make their minds up. And herein lies the problem. Our generation more than any other lives in a world where meat is relatively cheap. Where once, having a roast chicken was a looked forward delicacy, it has now become a cheap commodity on the family plate that can be served up every night.

As New Zealanders we expect meat on our plate but once upon a time pork used to be a treat, as was bacon, to be savoured and enjoyed. Now we expect to have it whenever we get the craving.

May-be we need to change our habits?

Farmgirl has recently changed her chicken consumption and now orders $32 fully free ranged chicken from Southland. It is expensive especially with households living on an ever decreasing budget these days, but chicken in Farmgirl's household has now become a rarity and a tasty one at that. It is eaten once every fortnight and every part of the chicken is used for stocks, soups etc. This is one way we can support our pork farmers. Another is by refusing to buy imported pork.

King's hypocrisy won't help the industry - in fact a negative reaction could send our pork farmers under and then we would have to rely on the rubbish that is imported from overseas.

It's up to us.

And if King truly believes in what he's saying and is not trying to pull some publicity stunt to help his career, he should donate all his previous earnings from the Pork Board to S.A.F.E but as the saying goes, pigs might fly...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mike King as guilty as all consumers for sow crates in pork industry and should share in responsibility

It was hard core stuff on Sunday tonight. Mike King, a former advocate for New Zealand pork and mouthpiece for industry ads has jumped ship and attacked farmers for the use of sow stalls. Emotive footage and unbalanced reporting followed and not one pork farmer who uses the stalls was allowed to give a reason as to why the practice occurs.

In her agricultural journalism career Farmgirl has followed intensely the plight of the nation's pig farmers and has some sympathy for their situation. To portray the farmers as the common enemy is an injustice that ignorant mouthpieces like King would never understand.

If he did his background research he might understand that he and every other consumer of bacon or pork in this country are just as culpable for sow crate farming as the farmer themselves.

Farmgirl would like to know if these 'het up' consumers check their overseas pork that has flooded our supermarkets. If they did they might realise that the bacon they purchase is also farmed in the same way - through crates. If you ban them in New Zealand you have to ban all imports from overseas - a situation most pig farmers in NZ would rejoice about.

Let's get one thing straight right now - pig farmers don't like the practice, they want to change but there is no economically viable way forward for them to do so as long as cheap imported pork continues to flood in.

There will be a huge public outcry over the footage shot on Sunday, but Farmgirl wonders how many will change their spending habits and instead buy free range NZ pork to support the industry. If everyone did change the pork farmers would have the support to do the same.

Farmgirl is sick and tired of celebrities jumping on the bandwagon of something they do not really understand, and something they themselves have forced farmers to do. And it's laughable that King says he didn't know this was going on when he signed his contract with the Pork Board - what rot - this issue has been around for a long time.

The pleasing aspects to the situation is that most pig farmers are trying to break free of the system - and Farmgirl has seen some stunning results in the form of Eco Sheds etc, but it takes cashflow. If King and his cronies are so upset why don't they get on the box and encourage people to buy the more expensive option as Jamie Oliver did successfully with his recent chicken campaign.

Unlike King, Jamie took the time to explain why farmers do what they do and put much of the onus back on consumers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Farmgirl back next week with a few juicy posts

Farmgirl wants to apologise for lack of blogging recently. The set up of a new business has enforced a silent blog for two weeks but she will be back next week from Monday and is pleased to say that she has HEAPS of juicy posts to write about.

See you back here on Monday!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama teaching us all something in his restraint

Time correspondent Joe Klein is right on the mark when he says Obama's first 100 days have been the most impressive of any president since the mighty F.D.R.

Too often politicians world-wide have been guilty of vote hunting and over-reacting in order to keep the masses happy. How wonderful is it then to see a President prepared to talk about patience and common sense.

"There's an impatience," Obama says, "that characterises Washington, that insists on instant gratification in the form of immediate results or higher poll numbers. When a crisis hits there is all too often a lurch from shock to trance, with everyone responding to the tempest of the moment until the furor has died down...instead of confronting major challenges that will shape our future in a sustained and focused way."

Klein says Obama's combination of candour and vision and his patient explanation of complex issues shows Obama at his best and signals a change from his predecessors and from the way society is at the moment - away from the kind of quick fix, sugar rush , attention deficit society that marks the postmodern age.

New rules for Wall Street so that in any one year of the economy 40% of US corporate profits don't come from lending as has previously happened and initiatives in education, energy and health care mean Obama is making his mark in a resilient manner.

There won't be a fix for today's problems by tomorrow morning. Everything has to be worked for, to be gained and then rewards will come, he seems to be telling us over and over again.

If only John Key's first hundred days were just as impressive....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swines I have met...

The theme of the week is undoubtedly swines...Farmgirl has met a few on her travels of late, most notably ones with the big green R emblazoned on their jackets who send junk mail through the letterbox full of self praise for their services, but short on realities, lulling the arable farmer into thinking that some great bright shining new wheat market is going to open up all because they click their fingers and wish it so...

A bright side to the hype surrounding swine fever?

You would have thought that this morning's news regarding swine fever and its possible importation into New Zealand via Rangitoto College students was enough to put a damper on anybodies week.

Not so for all farmers, with one beaming cocky telling Farmgirl this morning that there could be an immeasurable bright side to the flu hysteria - increased lamb sales around the world as people baulk at buying pork meat.

He has a point. The poor old pig farmer is on a hiding to nothing when the media get involved and hysteria reaches historic proportions.

Yes swine fever is generally contracted from direct contact with pigs but in these circumstances the UN have been careful to publicise the fact that none of those infected have had direct contact. Alas this gets lost in the publicity siege.
The strain, H1N1, is the same strain that causes seasonal flu outbreaks in humans, but the detected version contains genetic material from versions of flu which usually affect pigs and birds.
Regardless of the facts Farmers Weekly UK report that Governments across the world are considering tightening rules on pork imports while Russia and Serbia have already banned any pork products from entering their country.
You have to feel sorry for pig farmers who will once again be the focus of a panic backlash but as the farmer told Farmgirl this morning, 'always look on the bright side of life'.
Can't you just see wonderful advertisements on television and in the newspapers around the world now: "Eat Kiwi lamb and stay indoors this year if you want to avoid the flu." Mmmm....the bank account is increasing already...

Norgate hospitable in defeat

Praise is due for PGG Wrightson head Craig Norgate over his handling of the Silver Fern Farm fiasco and their particularly prickly CEO Keith Cooper.
Not only has he survived the failed merger attempt with a relatively small settlement payment of $40 million, he's also managed to retain a working relationship with Cooper and his company.
This is no mean feat when you consider the tough talking Cooper was engaging in, even up until last week on Farmgate on the Country Channel.
Norgate said charitably that there was no question that PGG Wrightson had breached the terms of the contract and all that was to be settled was the amount to be forked over.
However he is still holding hope of integrating the supply chain with SFF and this is interesting because on many levels farmers don't appear to see any advantage in this happening.
Sure if the deal had been settled Cooper could have had a better balance sheet and PGG Wrightson would have captured some extra revenue - but it is still a relative mystery as to what benefits there would have been on farm.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Kiwifruit dumping sad but a bold necessity

The so called 'dumping' of 60 000 trays of top quality Kiwifruit by Zespri shows they don't let emotion get in the way of business and good on them.

By keeping back the Kiwifruit Zespri is protecting its reputation as the finest Kiwifruit producer in the world and growers' export margins.

While it seems a travesty, unduly heralded by the likes of the Nelson Mail, that the fruit is not sold or distributed freely on the domestic market, it shows good business nous and you have to say that some of our meat companies could learn from this stance, particularly from when Farmgirl was last in the UK and saw NZ lamb sliding off the shelf for a pittance because the meat companies (one in particular) flooded the market.

The result of that debacle was that NZ lamb slid from being a high quality meat product British housewives were prepared to pay good money for, to a budget tray that seemed to signal the meat was just as poor in quality as the rubbish coming in from the EU.

When in the UK in 2001 Farmgirl spent several days talking to supermarket customers as to what they preferred in their sheep meat options. Back then almost every single person you came across said if they had the money they would almost always buy Kiwi lamb even though it was more expensive because they perceived it was the best in the world. Two years ago Farmgirl asked the same questions in Irish and English supermarkets and was greeted by completely different answers and some angry butchers. Kiwi lamb was perceived as cheap and therefore not as good as the British counterpart because it had flooded the market.

The end result was some poor returns, a driving down in the lamb market and some angry New Zealand farmers to boot.

How then is Zespri the villain for doing the right thing and protecting its growers? As Farmgirl hinted above, the reporting on the 'dumping' has been sensationalised. By dumping Zespri doesn't mean destroying altogether. Surely most of it will be used in animal food etc.

And for those humanitarians among us, forget Bob Geldof and his Band Aid cause, the slagging off of the EU for dumping tonnes of butter and other products that he felt could have gone to Africa in the 80s - Kiwifruit is not a suitable option and would cost a lot of money to transport and would be difficult to maintain fresh to reach those parts of the world.

Good on Zespri - it takes guts to maintain a business in this PC world.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SFF backtracking on idiotic ban of dogs in sheep yards

Since a belated maelstrom has buffeted its way through the nation's media regarding the Silver Fern Farm decision to ban sheepdogs from its sheepyards, SFF have been in damage control.
No, they say loudly. At no time did UK supermarket giant TESCO demand the removal of dogs because of the stress it may cause the sheep before it ends up in a British housewife's roasting dish.
But since SFF had removed dogs from all but three plants this season, management decided to "minimise the use of dogs from all sites".
What balderdash as the shepherds at the Fairton works in Mid Canterbury would tell you. Farmgirl has been told on more than one occasion that it was a word in the ear by the TESCO machine that led to the demise of the poor old dog.
But TESCO's big brother bark has made news worldwide as many overseas identify with the plight of the endangered Kiwi shepherd and the demise of his dog, and is apparently rather sensitive to any criticism.
It was no surprise then that SFF should jump quickly to dispel the story but in their haste they forgot to remember one thing - shepherds talk, they see, they hear what is being said when the big wigs come to visit their yards. They are not blind, deaf and dumb mutes who issue the odd whistle and yell 'Get up there Bob!'. So SFF's claim that they just idly decided to rid their yards of years of Kiwi iconic history, at a time when consumers are becoming so divorced from the reality of food production, just doesn't ring true.
And to add further salt into the wound the Otago Daily Times reported this week that surprise, surprise, Lincoln University bio-chemist Prof Roy Bickerstaffe found the dogs created no adverse affect on PH tender rating levels in sheep.
Farmgirl understands that yard requirements often dictate whether dogs are needed or not and has not problem with that but when it is so clearly being done because of supermarket pressure it is a worrying sign as to what we will have to kowtow to next in order to get out product into the market.
Federated Farmers Meat and Fibre Chairman Bruce Wills is naive to think this is just a 'storm in a teacup'. What it signifies is important.
This could be the beginning of a game of dominoes.

Study shows why ignorant greenies were loonies to destroy valuable GE crop research in NZ

The latest scientific results coming out of America and England that show that GE crops promote the proliferation of herbicide-resistant weeds which in turn curbs crop production is yet another kick in the backside for the morons who go about destroying GE experiments in our own backyard.
If these greenies had their way world-wide this kind of research would not have been possible. Farmers never asked to plant the crops - they asked to find out about the long term affects of growing them.
The Union of Concerned Scientists have presented a report in which they found that corn and soybean crops that were modified to resist insects and the herbicide glyphosphate did not necessarily produce higher yields.
Hooray for these brave men. In New Zealand those same scientists would have flogged, hung, drawn and quartered because they dared to even analyse the long term affects genetic modification might have on crops.
This is excellent work and gives farmers world-wide a handle on the impact of GE on some crops. Further research is needed of course and here in New Zealand we have plenty of scientists itching to do it.
Let's hope the aggressive antics of these ignorant GE ranters come to a halt when they realise that by allowing research to continue they may very well end up achieving their end goal, as no farmer is going to grow a GE crop if it doesn't give them as much cash in the back pocket as the previously unmodified versions.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coming down south like heading into a different land

I am fortunate enough to be in Southland for two days and can't help being fascinated by the woolly little furry white animals I see on the roadsides looking nourished, healthy and anything but under threat.
Sheep were part of my upbringing but living in Canterbury and growing crops and being surrounded by dairy farmers makes you forget about that Southern part of your life but it was reassuring to see the quality and quantity of stock coming down yesterday.
A friend asked me last night if I thought that sheep would ever return to some of these dairy farms in the province and honestly I think this is an improbability.
However, on many South Otago farms there lies a history that may prove otherwise. Dairying and sheep farming have always been cyclical in the area with many farms still housing derelict milk factories to prove that.
So never say never. It has been dairying land before and it has been sheep farming land before. Undoubtedly though moving back to the strong sheep farming history would be highly unlikely when you take into account the on farm investment on dairy farms these days and the high capital costs.
But if sheep farming does become a marginal commodity it could lead to an increase in demand particularly if wool was to come in fashion again. One can only wonder at those heyday years of the 50s my father in law talks about when the wool cheque more than balanced the books.
In any case it was somehow reassuring to see that not all sheep farmers are bowing out. It just wouldn't seem right if we didn't have that scenery anymore.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Woman eats 51 of world's hottest chillies in one sitting!

As a chilli farmer I couldn't help but include this story in my blog. I grow around 17 different varieties including the hottest habaneros - and can vouch that even though I like chillies I would struggle through one mouthful of a little chocolate habanero - so this story from the Daily Mail is truly incredible:

They're likely to leave you gasping for water - and have even been known to kill people who eat too many.
For this woman, however, the world's hottest chilli pepper proved nothing more than a simple snack as she chomped her way through 51 of them to claim a place in the Guinness Book of Records yesterday.
Anandita Dutta Tamuly completed her eye-watering feat in two minutes, to the astonishment of Gordon Ramsay, who was monitoring her record attempt.
And for some inexplicable reason, 26-year-old Mrs Tamuly then went on to smear handfuls of seeds from the fiery bhut jolokia chillies into her eyes as the crowds gasped in horror.
In 2007 Guinness acknowledged the bhut jolokia as the hottest chilli in the world, measuring more than 1million units on the Scoville Heat Rating chart, the method of classifying heat in peppers. A standard New Mexican green chilli has just 1,500 units.
A single seed from a bhut jolokia will cause watering eyes and a runny nose as well as a burning sensation in the mouth that can last up to five hours.
But Mrs Tamuly said coolly: 'I have been eating bhut jolokia since my childhood and never felt the hotness in my mouth.
'When I was five I had a sore tongue and my mother applied a chilli paste to cure the infection. Since then I developed a penchant for chillies.
After that I found eating chillies was a great way to stay healthy. Every time I have a cold or flu I just munch on some chillies and I feel better. To be honest, I barely notice them now.'
She said she was disappointed not to have managed even more, having swallowed 60 chillies in practice runs. Mrs Tamuly's record-breaking munch took place in the Assam region of India where she lives and where the chilli grows in hilly areas.
Ramsay, who was in India filming for a Channel 4 programme, could manage only one before screaming for water, yelling: 'It's too much!'
The previous record was held by a South African woman who ate eight jalapenos in one minute in 2002.
In September last year an aspiring chef died after eating a chilli sauce as part of an endurance competition with a friend.
Andrew Lee, 33, from Edlington, West Yorkshire, challenged his girlfriend's brother to a contest to see who could eat the spiciest sauce that he could create.
Mr Lee prepared a tomato sauce made with red chillies grown on his father's allotment. But after eating it he suffered intense discomfort and itching. The following morning he was found dead, possibly after having a heart attack.