Impeding food production with taxes on emissions is a bad idea when the world is tipping towards mass hunger

As the war in  the Ukraine drags  on, the  international   food  crisis  is  deepening. The  Economist put it  simply but grimly:

“The war is tipping a  fragile  world towards  mass  hunger. Fixing that is  everyone’s  business”.  

So  shouldn’t  the  New Zealand Government   be  exhorting  farmers to  go  all out to produce  as  much  as  they  can   for  this  country  to be  lifting  its  food  exports?  Is   this  the  time   for  the  government  to be erecting  new  hurdles to impede the  production  of  food?  Shouldn’t  it  delay  the  plan  to tax methane emissions for  at  least  12  months? 

Let’s look  at what  The  Economist further said:

“The  war is  battering a  global food  system weakened   by  Covid-19, climate  change,  and  an energy  shock.  Ukraine’s exports of grain and oilseeds have mostly stopped and Russia’s are threatened.

“Together, the two countries supply 12% of traded calories. Wheat prices, up 53% since the start of the year, jumped a further 6% on May 16th, after India said it would suspend exports because of an alarming heatwave.   

“The widely accepted idea of a cost-of-living crisis does not begin to capture the gravity of what may lie ahead. António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, warned on May 18th that the coming months threaten ‘the spectre of a global food shortage’. The  high cost  staple foods has already raised the number of people who cannot be sure of getting enough to eat by 440m, to 1.6bn.

“Nearly 250m are on the brink of famine. If, as is likely, the war drags on and supplies from Russia and Ukraine are limited, hundreds of millions more people could fall into poverty. Political unrest will spread, children will be stunted and people will starve.”

 ANZ Bank  economist Susan Kilsby, in her recent edition of the  bank’s Agri-focus, said global food prices continue to strengthen as shortages loom for basic foods such as grains.

“This means there will also be a shortage of carbohydrates to feed livestock. This won’t directly impact New Zealand food production systems, but it will impact our competitors who rely on grain to produce beef and milk. At the same time, the price of growing pasture has also gone up, as global fertiliser costs have soared.”

The shortages of those basic feed stocks would underpin global production costs and keep production in check, but it would also erode the ability of poorer countries to import the higher-value foods that New Zealand exports, Kilbsy said.

The recent lockdowns in China had disrupted supply chains and impacted demand for some of the food products we export to China.

They also were having a significant impact on the economies of many other Asian nations.

“China plans to increase fiscal spending to offset some of the impacts of the lockdowns, but the direct impact of the disruptions to supply chains will be felt even harder in many other Asian nations.

“The quantity of New Zealand’s meat, dairy and horticultural goods available for export globally has been impacted by either detrimental weather or labour shortages.”

Kilsby noted that He Waka Eke Noa has delivered its recommendations for pricing agricultural emissions and the Government is expected to formally adopt these recommendations in December.

“Methane emissions pricing is expected to have a larger impact on deer, sheep and beef farms than dairy farms.”  

Point  of  Order  notes  that the  government  has  been  silent  on  these  issues  (admittedly Agricultural Minister Damien  O’Connor  has  been on  missions  abroad).

But  surely   this  is time for  it to  take  the  lead  in   striving to  expand  the country’s food  production  and  exports to feed a world which The Economist says is headed for mass hunger.

Govt action against climate change includes pouring millions into troughs and inviting private sector to line up for a slurp

Buzz from the Beehive

Foreign affairs, agriculture, health and transport are among the burning issues which have been keeping our ministers, their policy advisers and their press secretaries busy in recent days.  Inviting oinkers to new freshly filled troughs was on the agenda, too.

Ministers had issued 13 new press statements when Point of Order checked this morning.  At time of writing the number of new statements had increased to 16, on subjects ranging from the agriculture sector’s agenda for dealing with climate change to the race-fixated restructuring of the health system.

On the foreign affairs front, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta was announcing additional sanctions on Russian state-owned enterprises and defence entities in response to the ongoing brutality in Ukraine, the PM was announcing a visit here this month by Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataʻafa 60 years after the Treaty of Friendship between the two countries was signed, and the PM was further announcing she will travel to Sydney this week for “an in-person meeting” with new Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. Continue reading “Govt action against climate change includes pouring millions into troughs and inviting private sector to line up for a slurp”

Buzz from the Beehive: Pacific is discussed in PM’s chat with Biden while Nash has ‘Plan’ to transform manufacturing

This country’s relations with the Pacific were the subjects of two fresh statements from the Beehive and were mentioned in despatches from Washington, although nothing suggested Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta would be headed to look up our near neighbours any time soon.

Mahuta’s contribution was to announce the appointment of Don Higgins as the next Administrator of Tokelau.

“Aotearoa New Zealand is first and foremost a Pacific nation. We value the strong and enduring relationships that we have with countries throughout the region, and I know these will only continue to grow,” Nanaia Mahuta said. 

The Administrator’s role is to support the Tokelau Government to deliver quality public services to the people of Tokelau, and to help manage the relationship between our countries.

Higgins will also oversee New Zealand’s development assistance to Tokelau, which is focused on strengthening Tokelau’s resilience to climate change, and includes “major investments” in education, internet connectivity, and renewable energy. Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: Pacific is discussed in PM’s chat with Biden while Nash has ‘Plan’ to transform manufacturing”

Mahuta might have missed a trick but other ministers are braying about more millions for Pacific peoples’ employment

We can’t but wonder whether China’s thrust into the Pacific – exposing our government to mounting criticism on the foreign affairs front – helps explain two of the latest announcements from the Beehive.

The shortcomings of the government in general and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta in particular are spolighted today in an article by Geoffrey Miller for the Democracy Project.

It is headed Political Roundup: Nanaia Mahuta under pressure as Pacific’s geopolitical Great Game heats up.

Miller, the Democracy Project’s international analyst and writer on New Zealand foreign policy and related geopolitical issues, observes:

As a new ‘Great Game’ for control of the Pacific escalates, New Zealand’s foreign minister is coming under pressure from all sides.

For those keeping score, China has now signed co-operation agreements with Samoa and Kiribati, while the US has convinced Fiji to join its new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). Continue reading “Mahuta might have missed a trick but other ministers are braying about more millions for Pacific peoples’ employment”

Here’s hoping Ardern gets to meet Biden during US trade visit – and O’Connor finds time to check out gene-editing benefits

New Zealand’s  export industries are looking  to a  new  era in the  wake of life returning to something like  normal in international markets.

The  Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, will head a  mission to the  US to promote trade and tourism opportunities in our third largest export and visitor market, saying this is part of the Government’s reconnection strategy to support export growth and the return of tourists post COVID-19.

Ardern  is  certain  to  attract  international  attention   with  her  scheduled commencement address at the 371st Harvard University Commencement ceremony.

But the  more  crucial engagement will  be  at  the  White  House for  talks  with  President Biden,  who is now in Asia. Continue reading “Here’s hoping Ardern gets to meet Biden during US trade visit – and O’Connor finds time to check out gene-editing benefits”

Greenpeace gripes at govt’s greenhouse gas agenda but agriculture leaders welcome it (and push genetic technologies)

Despite   pouring  $2.9 billion  of  taxpayer funds  into  the  battle against  climate  change, the Ardern  government won few  plaudits  from  climate  change lobbies – and  copped a  severe  caning   from  Greenpeace for refusing to cut  dairy herds.

As  Radio  NZ  reported,

“Climate activists say the government’s landmark plan to curb emissions is light on detail, full of fluff, and lets the worst polluters off the hook”.

Government  ministers were  nevertheless ebullient   about their  package, believing  they  had  delivered a  master stroke  in  earmarking $569 million  to help low-income families get  cleaner  cars  while winning  over  farmers  with a  new  agricultural emissions centre.

Greenpeace  saw  that  rather  differently.  As  their  spokesperson put it:

“The Emissions Reduction Plan gifts $710 million to the agricultural industry – a quarter of the entire Climate Emergency Response Fund which it has not contributed towards”. Continue reading “Greenpeace gripes at govt’s greenhouse gas agenda but agriculture leaders welcome it (and push genetic technologies)”

Buzz from the Beehive: While climate change assault is outlined, DoC Minister plants a kauri and Mahuta rocks Belarussia

The big news from the  Beehive in the past day has been the announcement of the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan to put the country on track to meet its first emissions budget, securing our environment and economy.

More of that in our next post.  For now, suffice to say Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared:

“This is a landmark day in our transition to a low emissions future  

“We’ve all seen the recent reports on sea level rise and its impact right here in New Zealand. We cannot leave the issue of climate change until it’s too late to fix.” Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: While climate change assault is outlined, DoC Minister plants a kauri and Mahuta rocks Belarussia”

Buzz from the Beehive: Kiwis are stuck with a Red light while more of Putin’s mates are given a red card

Location, location, location can be a strong influence on our general wellbeing as well as the value of our real estate.  The outlook for people still living in Mariupol, for example, is much more parlous than it is for people living – let’s say – in Motueka.

The era in which we live is important, too. We are better off today, despite the pandemic, than we would have been had we had to deal with the Bubonic Plague in Europe in the 14th century.

But what about our wellbeing a few decades from now?  The warming of the climate suggests life could become more challenging than now, depending on what is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

How well off we are – or the quality of our wellbeing – perhaps is a matter of putting hardship in perspective too.

In this country, Hospitality NZ says the government’s decision yesterday to hold the traffic light setting at Red indefinitely is “gutting” for many businesses.

But if that is gutting, how should the people of Ukraine describe their plight as revelations about Russian atrocities cause widespread dismay around the world?

As for the era in which we live, according to a new report from climate-change scientists, we are headed for a global catastrophe unless firm action is taken now to cut emissions.

Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: Kiwis are stuck with a Red light while more of Putin’s mates are given a red card”

The nation that Jacinda aims to rebuild – and the economy that can’t return to business as normal

Will  these  words  come  back  to  haunt the Prime  Minister?:

 “When we look back on this period in our country’s history, I don’t want us just to reflect on how we weathered the storm of a pandemic, but what we built after”.

Furthermore, she  told Parliament yesterday:

“Our economy cannot afford to return to business as usual, because the status quo is unsustainable”.

And  she concluded her Prime Ministerial statement with this  ringing commitment:

“New Zealand has entrusted the government with the responsibility of bringing this country through our current crisis,  and we will continue to do that. But we will do more than that. We’ll provide stability, a united team, and a singular focus on a recovery that, even after a crisis, leaves New Zealand better than we found it”. Continue reading “The nation that Jacinda aims to rebuild – and the economy that can’t return to business as normal”