The first day of the 48th National Fieldays at Mystery Creek attracted more than 28,000 people through the gates.    And with its theme of innovation and education the Government announced  a programme aimed at filling at least 50,000 more jobs in the primary sector.  The programme, Growing Our Future – Primary Industry Champions, was launched by Prime Minister John Key and it promotes the range of careers in farming, horticulture and other primary industries.   MPI Minister Nathan Guy says the big challenges are to be met in attracting enough young people into the sector.  He says half of them will require a level 4 NCEA qualification or higher.    Fieldays organisers had little trouble filling jobs for the big with its hard-core of 160 volunteers, growing to more than 300 for the event.

In an unusual occurrence the average Global Dairy Trade Price  has held steady with a  0.0% change overall.  The average price was unchanged at $US2339 a tonne, after a 3.4 percent rise at the previous auction.   However, when you look at the individual products it’s all over the place.    As an example Whole milk powder has gone down 4.5%  while butter is up 5.2%.     There’s been zero per cent change in the Global Dairy Trade price index after a 3.4 per cent rise at the last auction.     However, whole milk powder has decreased by 4.5 per cent.    Earlier this week, ASB Banks dairy futures market suggested that WMP prices may rise at this auction.      Let’s run through the figures:

Anhydrous Milk Fat  a 4.4% lift   to $US 3,619   Butter up 5.2%  to  $2,910,   Butter Milk Powder down  6.6 % to $1,695    Cheddar   at $US2,882  up 6.9%,   Lactose up 0.6% at $754    Rennet Casein a drop  of 0.4% to  $5,116, Skim Milk Powder up 1.5% to $US 1,901  and   Whole Milk Powder down  4.5 $US 2,118

The overall index is at its best level of the year but prices remain well below the break-even range for farmers, who need about $3000 a tonne.    Agri HQ analyst Susan Kilsby says  with  plenty of product available, both here in New Zealand and elsewhere in the world, it doesn’t look like we’ll see much of a lift in dairy commodity prices in the current calendar year.   She said the mood among farmers at the National Agricultural Fieldays in Hamilton was very sombre.

Heavy demand and a lack of supply for avocados has driven the price up to $6 at some supermarkets, creating a black-market.    Avocado thieves, who are keen to make a quick dollar from on-selling the fruit are targeting orchards in Western Bay of Plenty, with carloads of the produce going missing.    Avocado New Zealand chief executive Jen Scouler has been working with the police and some of the affected orchardists in Te Puke and Athenree.    She said a bad season may be to blame, with 30 or 40 thefts this year, which was more than usual.        Ms Scouler said the stolen fruit would be unripe and it was likely sold at farmers markets and to small shops.    Waihi police sergeant Aaron Fraser said it was aware of a black market for avocados and was investigating a number of thefts.     He said some people were driving into orchards in the middle of the night.      Mr Moore said the thieves could also be risking their health, as the avocados were sprayed with chemicals and have withholding periods before they’re safe to eat.   Jen Scouler said the bottom line was that the crime was impacting on growers’ livelihoods .  Last month the average cost of an avocado was nearly $5 but they have been fetching upwards of $7 per fruit.
Harry Matthews recently took over the Wanganui  Federated Farmers presidents role from the long standing Brian Doughty.   Harry  grew up on a sheep & beef farm an hour Northeast of Wanganui.   He is also involved with the Ruapehu Whanganui Rural Support Trust  which came out of last years floods.

Procurement competition for lambs continued to work in farmers favour last week. Even with the shorter killing week, those sending lambs to slaughter found it easy to find killing space. While some processors held prices steady, others lifted their prices, to near contract levels.   Overall activity in the slaughter space is subdued, and with the majority of farmers now in winter mode, it is unlikely we will see any change in the current trend soon. Ewe slaughter has been low over the past few months, due to the steep kill in the early months of the season but numbers should pick up over the next month as the start of scanning brings more dry ewes to slaughter.   And we finish Market Insight with venison and procurement competition has driven venison schedules higher in recent weeks as the venison kill lags around 22%  behind last year.  In the short term the high NZ Dollar  may see some of these gains reversed, however price expectations for the  chilled season are positive.

Exporters have commenced discussions with European customers for the chilled season but the lack of supply is dominating these discussions and uncertainty around spring slaughter rates is making negotiations challenging.    Market pricing for the chilled season is expected to be firm with contract prices signalled to be in the $9/kg range through the peak chilled season.
Dry conditions continue to force farmers to offload, and while there was plenty of outside interest at Stortford, the lack of locals to underpin the market was felt.  Prices were mainly steady with vetted in calf cows  a highlight, selling to mainly Manawatu and local buyers. Angus, and Angus & Ang/Here x,  weighing  565-631kg, sold for $1265-$1435 for an impressive $2.24-$2.27/kg, with Here/Freis x right up there too at $2.08-$2.15/kg. R2 and R3 beef steers of good quality   were mainly trading at $2.80-$2.89/kg, though Angus, 369kg, made a premium at $2.91/kg.   Heifers were not far behind the steers and  the straight Angus lines making $1240 at $2.83/kg, while 324-397kg R2’s sold for $915-$1125 at $2.79- $2.84/kg.     R1 numbers were low but the black cattle again shone bright, with two lines of heifers selling for $680-$745.    Breeding ewes came forward in decent numbers again this week, and the better lines once again headed out of the area, with Wanganui and Gisborne snapping them up.   The market was harder going though, with top price of $120 paid for heavy Romney Mixed Age,  Scanned In Lamb at 200%, while 140-145% SIL were making $105-$105.50. Male lambs continued to fall in price with buyer power limited to locals.   32-40kg lines averaged $2.19-$2.23/kg,  putting $71-$95 on their heads.   30-31kg making $2.34/kg, while a small line of 61kg rams sold for $123 at $1.99/kg.      Ewe lambs at  32-37kg made  $73-$90 at $2.26-$2.35/kg. 30-31kg lines dropped however, to $69-$74 for $2.35/kg.