The dominant role of agribusiness co-operatives

[This post first published in the Fairfax New Zealand Sunday Star Times on 20 July 2014]

Last week I wrote about the Farmlands co-operative which, together with other co-operatives dominate the farm supplies sector. I suggested that farmers have a natural affinity for co-operatives. This is because these co-operatives, which are owned by the farmer members, exist for the purpose of working in farmers’ interests.

Whereas Farmlands and similar co-operatives such as RD1 and Ashburton trading Society (ATS) are merchant traders who have their own retail stores, there is also a range of other farmer co-operatives that supply specific and specialist inputs, either directly to farmers or through the merchants. Continue reading

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Farmlands now the dominant farm services company

[This post first appeared in the Fairfax NZ Sunday Star Times on 13 July 2014]

Last week I wrote about PGG Wrightson and the challenges it faces. For their seeds division there are clear strategic options, but for the farm services division, the long term strategy remains challenging. Part of the reason is the competition they are facing from the farm services co-operatives, with Farmlands now dominant in the sector. Continue reading

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Where is PGG Wrightson heading?

[This post was first published in the Fairfax New Zealand Sunday Star Times on 6 July 2014]

The last decade has been tumultuous for leading agricultural services company PGG Wrightson. The current company was formed in 2005 with the merger of Pyne Gould Guinness and Wrightson. That merger was led by well-known agribusiness entrepreneur and former Fonterra CEO, Craig Norgate.

Norgate then took PGG Wrightson on a rough ride. It was he who provided the intellectual leadership behind the massive land buying associated with the PGG Wrightson offshoot Farming Systems Uruguay. This subsequently ran into trouble with the coalescence of a major drought and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Norgate also led the proposal for PGG Wrightson to purchase a 50% share in Silver Fern Farms for $220 million. That too ran into trouble due to the Global Financial Crisis. Continue reading

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The path ahead for dairy payouts

[ This post was first published in the Fairfax New Zealand Sunday Star Times on 29 june 2014.]

The next two months will be crucial for the coming year’s dairy payouts. Normally, it is not until Christmas that predictions have any reliability, but this year it will be different.   If global dairy prices are going to reverse the declines of the last four months, then we will see the evidence of that very soon, perhaps within weeks.   Otherwise we are in for a tough year. Continue reading

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Lincoln and Canterbury: is a merger the solution?

[This post was first published in the Fairfax NZ Sunday Star Times on 22 June 2014]

Last week I wrote how Lincoln University is facing hard times, and is shedding lecturing staff in core areas of land-based education. I suggested one solution could be for Lincoln to become much more focused on its true areas of specialisation and to greatly reduce the managerial and marketing spend which has recently ballooned. The other alternative is to link with Canterbury University. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Education, The Fairfax SST Articles | 5 Comments

Lincoln University drives into the rough

[This post was first published in the Fairfax NZ Sunday Star Times on 15 June 2014]

Lincoln University is New Zealand’s land-based university, with a special focus on agriculture and related industries. In recent years, the University has been facing hard times. This is despite the resurgence of New Zealand’s agricultural industries, and the export dominance of agri- food products.

This year the situation at Lincoln has reached crisis point. The University has been shedding academic and other positions in an attempt to balance the books. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Education, The Fairfax SST Articles | 3 Comments

Grassland dairying in Colombia

[This post was first published in the Fairfax NZ Sunday Star Times on 8 June 2014]

This week I am writing from Bogota in Colombia, where I am leading a team of five Kiwis on an MFAT-funded dairy design project.  This is part of New Zealand’s ‘Agricultural Diplomacy’ program, which fits within New Zealand’s broader official development program.  It is also linked to developing links between New Zealand and Colombia, and the proposed development of a free trade agreement. New Zealand already sells electric fencing, seeds and other farm inputs here in Colombia. The project we are designing will run for an initial four to five years. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, The Fairfax SST Articles | 5 Comments