A report in today’s New Zealand Herald newspaper seems to undermine Don Nicolson’s (NZ Federated Farmers President) assertion that Greenpeace’s blockade of the ship carrying a cargo of Palm Kernel Extract destined for New Zealand animal feed was because Greenpeace is “anti-farming“
“….Protests continued outside Ports of Tauranga gates, with some New Zealand farmers weighing into the argument against importing the feed.
Greenpeace New Zealand said several maize and grain farmers had offered donations and support for the protest, saying their product had been undercut by cheap imports.
“We’ve had farmers who say they’ve never donated to Greenpeace but want to now because they are going out of business,” said spokesperson Suzette Jackson.”
If Greenpeace is “anti-farming” why are some farmers supporting them?
The Green party has evidence to show that farmers have been damaged by PKE imports into New Zealand and that continuing to do so was damaging the country’s ‘Clean and Green’ brand image. This from a Scoop article back in August :
“Importing massive amounts of palm kernel undermines the priceless ‘clean and green’ brand that underpins our economy and most New Zealanders’ jobs,”said Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman.
“Stopping this sort of economic sabotage requires strong leadership from the Government.”
The Green Party warned about the alarming rise in imported PKE in April 2008, releasing statistics that showed a thousand-fold increase from 0.4 tonnes in 1999 to 455,000 tonnes in 2007. Statistics released today show imports more than doubled in the past year to 1.1 million tonnes in 2008, one-quarter of global PKE production.
“New Zealand’s palm kernel addiction is already costing our economy, and farmers, due to lost sales of our own grain and maize feeds,” said Dr Norman.
“Just this week members of the NZ Grain Council wrote to the Green Party concerned about large-scale PKE imports because it is environmentally destructive, is a biosecurity risk, and is leading to the ‘demise of the NZ domestic grain industry’.”
So how long has PKE been a problem for the domestic grain industry? Well, concerns were raised back in early 2007, an article in NZ Farmers Weekly stated:
“Discontent is simmering among grain growers over the standards applied to the huge volumes of palm kernel extract (PKE) supplement being bought into New Zealand.
The MAF phyto-sanitary requirements for PKE are “a joke” and the ministry’s certainty over product quality is based on one arranged visit to several Malaysian plants, Whakatane maize grower Colin Mackinnon says.
“You need to make several visits on purely random, unannounced basis, not go along on an arranged trip to be sure standards are being adhered to,” he says.
He rejects Biosecurity New Zealand claims grain growers are concerned about heavy metals in PKE shipments.
“That is rubbish. The point is we don’t know what unseen contaminants are in PKE when it gets here because they are not checking. That is our whole point.”
Growers who have seen a confidential AgResearch report on PKE are fuming over Biosecurity NZ claims grower support for further research is based on fear of competition from PKE imports.
“We require a strong dairy industry and if it shoots itself in the foot with contaminated feed, we will all be in trouble,” Mackinnon says….
….Canterbury grain grower Gary Wilson says growers are not afraid of competition, but want a level playing field.
Growers here have strict requirements on spray use and standards, keeping diaries and logs on all applications.
He doubts the same applied to imported product.
Wilson also questions the environmental consequences of using a feed sourced from plantations planted in rainforest areas.
Ross Hyland of Seales Stockfood, Morrinsville, says PKE is probably here to stay.
Due to the large volumes being imported, he believes there may be grounds to establish a testing regime for it here.”
And by January of this year maize farmers were really doing it hard because low PKE feed prices were causing dairy farmers to cancel contracts for silage. This too from Farmers Weekly:
“Dairy farmers are earning few friends among maize growers this summer as they walk away from silage deals, leaving some contractors with as much as a third of their crop now unsold.
“The dairy industry is really letting us down big time this year. It is hard to see how some contractors are going to be able to survive with portions of their crop now unsold despite contracts being signed,” Bay of Plenty contractor Bill Webb told The New Zealand Farmers Weekly….
….Historically low palm kernel prices coinciding with payout slide was also accounting for contracts being cancelled. With prices under $200/t, the lure had proven too great for some of Webb’s customers.
He had longtime buyers who had cancelled orders for as much as 200t of maize silage, after he had spent $3000/ha getting the crop planted for them.
Economics aside, Webb has questioned the future integrity and health of relationships between dairy farmers and the maize industry.
“It is a damn good question. What do we do next year, do you go back to these guys and do business with them, or risk simply not having enough buyers if you avoid them?”
So there you have it, which is “Anti-farming” – Greenpeace, or using PKE to make animal feed?
See also: World Bank breaks rules in lending to palm oil companies