Fifty years of Canterbury farming revolution

The ideas for this article were triggered by a recent reunion of former Ministry of Agriculture Canterbury farm advisers. There were about 45 of us who got together to tell tales of former years. Our collective experiences that day went back to 1946 when Austin Ebert joined what was then the Department of Agriculture, followed by Les Bennetts in 1947, and then Lyndsay Galloway and Dave Reynolds a few years later. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Land and water, Meat Industry, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Synlait transforms from bulk powders to infant formula

Synlait is currently undergoing a strategic restructure from a producer of bulk milk powders to a producer of consumer-packaged infant formula. These investments will make Synlait the dominant New Zealand producer of infant formula.

So far, Synlait are still in the early stages of the transformation, but with a current construction contract with Tetra Pak to double their wet-kitchen capacity to 80,000 tonnes per annum, plus a foreshadowed announcement about doubling canning capacity to 60,000 tonnes, it is ‘all systems go’. Continue reading

Posted in A1 and A2 milk, Agribusiness, Dairy | 1 Comment

Fonterra produces a solid half-year set of results but it is not all plain sailing ahead

Fonterra has produced a solid set of results for the first half of the 2016/17 season, with after-tax profit up two percent to $418 million.

Results were broadly in line with market expectations. Prices for Fonterra units had been drifting down on the NZX in the weeks prior to the announcement from a high of $6.39 to $6.20 and lost another five cents over the following two days down to $6.15.

As always, the half-yearly and annual reports from Fonterra are a masterful exercise in communication. It takes effort to scratch beneath the surface to figure out what the numbers are really telling us. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Fonterra | 1 Comment

Dairy outlook cools down

The latest dairy auction on 7 March has brought a cool breeze to the dairy outlook. There are signs it could turn even colder at the next auction.

Whole-milk powder (WMP) at this last auction was down 22 percent to US$2785 from the 6 December 2016 high of US$3593. Skim milk powder (SMP) was down by 20 percent compared to December.

The decline has come as a surprise to many farmers and commentators, but the signs were there and had been building. As one derivatives broker said to his clients in the week before the latest auction, it was going to be ‘wretched’.  And it was. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, China, Dairy, Fonterra | 7 Comments

Synlait and The a2 Milk Company strengthen their alliance

The a2 Milk Company (A2M) and Synlait have each announced to the market today that A2M has purchased 8.2 percent of Synlait. This was an off-market transaction with Dutch-owned Friesland Campina, previously Synlait’s second largest shareholder after Chinese-owned Bright.  The purchase and sale makes strategic sense for all three companies.

A2M is listed on both the New Zealand stock exchange (listed as ATM) and the Australian stock exchange (listed as A2M).  As from 2016, Synlait is also dual listed on the two exchanges.

I watch both companies closely, and the buy-in has come as no surprise. Both Synlait and A2M are now increasingly dependent on each other.  All of the ‘a2 Platinum’ infant formula that underpins the remarkable success of A2M in Australia and China comes from Synlait. Continue reading

Posted in A1 and A2 milk, Agribusiness, China, Dairy | 4 Comments

Land Use and Vegetation on the Christchurch Port Hills

The recent disastrous fires on the Christchurch Port Hills give cause for thought as to the best land use on these slopes. It seems that no-one foresaw a fire event of this magnitude. With different wind patterns it could have been much worse. How should this new knowledge about fires risk influence decisions for the future?

Since European settlement, much of the Christchurch Port Hills has been dominated by pastoral farming. In recent decades, we have also seen substantial plantations of pine trees, together with some revegetation of native species.

The Port Hills are also a huge recreational resource for the urban population of Christchurch. On a fine weekend, there are hundreds of walkers and bikers out there enjoying the outdoors. Paragliding and rock-climbing are also much favoured.  A lot of this recreation takes place on public land, but some is also through the agreement and support of farmers.

Paragliding on Mt Cavendish, Christchurch Port Hills (photo credit: Steve Beasley)

Paragliding on Mt Cavendish, Christchurch Port Hills (photo credit: Steve Beasley)

Continue reading

Posted in Fire, Land and water, Outdoors with nature, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Fire and Devastation on the Christchurch Port Hills

Between 13 and 16 February 2017,  the Christchurch Port Hills suffered devastating fires unlike anything ever seen there before.  As I write this on 21 February, the mopping up operations continue. The fire is now apparently well under control, but hot spots remain in the burnt areas.  With hot north-west winds (known locally as ‘norwesters’) in the offing, the danger is not totally over. However, as of 21 February, most hillside residents have been able to return to their homes.

I live at Kennedy’s Bush, one of the focal points of the fire. We watched as the fire went past us on 13 February, only to be threatened again on 15 February.  We were evacuated for 72 hours, but were then able to return  to our home with our property totally unscathed. As I write this, I can hear the helicopters hard at work again passing overhead with their monsoon buckets, and planes dropping fire-retardant materials.

In this post, I share the chronology of the fire as my wife Annette and I  saw it from Kennedy’s Bush. It is largely a pictorial story from the photos we took (click once on each photo to enlarge and show the detail, then use the back button to return to the story), but with a specific focus on the chronology and the contextual background. Continue reading

Posted in Fire, Outdoors with nature, Uncategorized | 10 Comments