Southland is doing nicely, thank you – and vegans should approve the land-use changes

Despite what  business  confidence  surveys  say,  the  NZ  economy  is  plugging along   steadily and  city-dwellers   may  not  have noticed  how  well  the   farming  industries have been   doing.

ANZ economists, surveying  the  country’s  primary   industries  this week,  talked  of   “elevated  returns”   at  the  farm  (or orchard)  gate.

They  say global economic concerns are yet to be felt in the  regions, with commodity prices generally very strong at present. Export prices  for  dairy products have steadily increased with the GDT price index gaining 24% since early December,  and  the  ANZ team  is  forecasting a $6.40/kg milksolid  price for the current season and a $7.30kg/MS price for next season.

They   also  note  returns  for  export  lamb   have been   very favourable,  with China  now  the largest  market  for  NZ  lamb  and mutton  (though   they  say  a  disorderly  Brexit  could be   disruptive for  the  trade to  the UK and European  markets).

ANZ reports industry confidence varies between sectors. High debt levels in the dairy sector are curbing positive market sentiment. Finding staff, particularly seasonal staff, is a challenge in all agricultural and horticultural industries.  Top of mind issues at present  for  many within the   dairy  industry are debt repayment and investment in on-farm infrastructure to meet regulatory and consumer expectations.

On the  other  hand,   as  Point of Order  discovered  on a visit  to  our old stamping grounds in  Southland  where   farmers    have   their   debt  levels well under control, the region is prospering.  Established dairy farmers  are  doing   very  nicely, thank you.

In  Southland, agriculture’s share of  GDP   is  around  20%,  or    double that of  most other regions.

With  Southland  being  the  country’s  third largest   dairying  region  (after  Waikato and  Canterbury),  there has been  linear  annual   growth  of   more than 12%  in  milk solids  and the  dairy   sector  is  contributing  nearly   20%  of   the  province’s GDP.  At  Edendale,  the Fonterra  co-op  is   said to  operate  the   world’s  largest  dairy  site  in terms of  volume produced.

It’s  not  surprising   that   Southlanders  think of  themselves  as   leaders   in   the farming industries  (though  they   will concede  that the  climate  and  soils   on  the  Southland   river   flats  may have  something to   do  with  the high productivity).

The  interesting  development  in  Southland  agriculture, in  an era  when  methane emissions from  cows  are top of the agenda  for  climate  change   warriors, is the expansion of the  vegetable- growing  industry.  Southland is  now  the base  of two  major   firms,  Pypers Produce Ltd  and  Southern Cross   Produce,  supplying  carrots, potatoes and  parsnips,  not  just for the domestic  market   but  for many  countries  abroad.   The  returns  per  hectare   are  said to  be  phenomenal  (far  ahead  of  those for  either  dairy or meat production) and  farmers   are  queuing   up  to  lease  some of  their  most fertile   paddocks  to   Pypers  or  their rivals.

If  sustainably  produced  vegetable exports   provide an  answer   to  a  hungry  world  while shutting  down  carbon  emissions,  then Southland  may  be  on  to an even  more  remarkable winner than it has so far enjoyed.

Moreover, the region seems to be future-proofing itself against the violence feared by farmers in Australia, where vegans have been embroiled in a major wave of animal rights protests.

Aussie farmers are taking to social media to vent their fury at protesting vegans, as the politicians tell them to arm themselves with video footage and complain to police if activists storm their properties.

One of those making his voice heard is Burrumbuttock Hay Runners founder Brendan Farrell — who takes donated hay to drought affected farmers — who posted a strongly-worded video statement on the protests.

“Vegans are going bananas. Blockades left, right and centre. Flinders Street Station is in chaos. Abattoirs chained up, people locking themselves up here, there and everywhere,” he said in the video.

“I am just gobsmacked with some of the bulls**t that’s coming out these people’s mouths on what they are trying to achieve.”

Southland perhaps is prudently preparing to avoid the wrath of the vegans should similar protests be organised in this country.


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