Saturday, 25 July 2009

Kiwi press censors any criticism

Personal note: The second letter on this subject to a New Zealand newspaper. Both have gone unpublished. I have formed the view the NW press protects its dairy business by restricting any criticism.

I have also written to DairyNZ but received no reply. Are we to think that anyone consuming butter, milk or chocolate from New Zealand, will be doing so at the expense of orangutans and rainforests being destroyed?

What we need now is for people in New Zealand and Australia, especially, to begin asking questions of the NZ manufacturers and media.


New Zealand farmers are killing orangutans to feed their cattle

Biodiversity concerns and their very real threat to New Zealand's unique flora and fauna, aside for a moment, I wonder if farmers in New Zealand really understand by importing palm kernel (see A Kernel of truth 23/07/09) they are contributing to the annual death of up to three thousand orangutans, millions of other animals and rainforest trees destroyed?

It seems a dying shame farmers in a country where appreciation of its own environment could scarcely be greater, and rightly so, appear to have no concerns about feeding their cattle at the expense of the Indonesian environment.

The palm oil industry (which provides palm kernel to Kiwi farmers) is responsible for the mass slaughter of thousands of orangutans, a legally protected species. If the same farmers were not previously aware of this problem, they are now. If their cattle eat this palm kernel and go on to produce milk which then goes into butter, the commercial consequences of selling butter tainted with the blood of orangutans could be immeasurable and doubtless very costly. Consumers will refuse to buy it.

My hope is the farmers will think again and ask themselves do they really want to have the deaths of so many endangered animals on their conscience. There can be no misunderstanding - palm kernel, like palm oil, kills millions of wild animals every year. Evidence of this is to be found at and Blog

Sean Whyte, Chief Executive,

Nature Alert,

re the following article …………………………..

A kernel of truth

There're good reasons why farmers have become dependent on palm kernel, and Helen Harvey finds Taranaki's economy is heading down the same dependence path.

Taranaki Daily News New Zealand

Last updated 10:32 23/07/2009


Love it or hate it, importing palm kernel is big business.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, lament the miles of tropical rainforests destroyed to make way for palm plantations, endangering tigers and orang- utans.

And Federated Farmers is concerned about the amount of impurities, such as seeds, soil and insects, that come into the country with the product.

But love it or hate it, importing palm kernel has become big business and many dairy farmers rely on it.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand show 408 tonnes of palm kernel were imported into the country in 1999. In 2008, that figure grew to 1,104,187 tonnes. In the first four months of this year, 260,174 tonnes were imported.

In July last year, Australian company ABB Grain Ltd's New Zealand division opened a $6 million, 7500-square-metre, 30,000-tonne capacity grain storage facility in New Plymouth.

The company is about to start construction on a $300,000 dust- extraction and bag-house system, coupled with a high-speed door that stops dust escaping from the building and prevents a build-up of palm kernel odour, ABB Grain (NZ) Ltd commercial manager David Livingstone says. The project is scheduled to be completed at the end of August.

Port Taranaki Ltd business development manager Jon Hacon says having ABB NZ at the port has increased trades and revenues through the port.

"To become a strategic hub for animal feeds to supplement the dairy industry is a major step. It's important to have that asset close to the port."

In the past 12 months, ABB NZ has had 10 vessels call at Port Taranaki, Mr Livingstone says.

"And the facility has handled more than 100,000 tonnes of product, around 80 per cent of which has been palm kernel meal [also known as PKE] which has been delivered to the region's farmers."

The palm kernel, which comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, gets delivered to farmers in Taranaki, Manawatu, Wanganui and Wairarapa.

The grain ABB NZ imports primarily goes to the two local feed mills, Tegel and PCL.

"The location and scale of ABB NZ's New Plymouth operations enables us to maximise the benefits to local farmers through the efficiencies we provide. This has resulted in more competitive prices to farmers for the nutritional needs of their stock."

The first shipment of palm kernel that arrived in July last year cost farmers 36.8c/kg. At the moment, the price is about 27c/kg or $240 a tonne.

DairyNZ Central and South Taranaki consultant Stephen Canton says the price of palm kernel should be no more than 5 per cent of the payout.

"That's a rough rule. It's not 100 per cent right, but it's a good, simple benchmark for farmers to use to determine how much to pay for supplements."

The payout forecast is $4.55, so by Mr Canton's calculations, the palm kernel price should be about 23c/kg of dry matter. The current price of 27c/kg is higher than the benchmark figure, but not ridiculously so, he says.

The amount of palm kernel bought by farmers this year is likely to decrease because of the low payout. Mr Canton says farmers have been telling him that they are not going to contract palm kernel in this year and if they run out of feed, they will buy it off the spot market.

DairyNZ has been running seminars to help farmers in tight times and Mr Canton has been asking them what they are going to do to reduce costs.

"For a lot of them, it was to reduce the amount of inputs coming in and possibly reduce stocking rates to allow that to happen.

"That indicates we could be heading back to less input being fed, but not like we used to farm in the '80s, where farmers used very little inputs. We're still going to keep using them. In the autumn, you use supplements to extend lactation, which is a very profitable strategy to use."

For a supplement, palm kernel is a pretty balanced feed, but it is not as good as good-quality grass, he says.

"Nothing is as good as quality grass."

Taranaki Federated Farmers dairy section head Caroline Gilbert says some farmers are using tapioca as a substitute for maize and tapioca is high in carbohydrate.

"PK is high in protein. Feed [palm kernel and tapioca] together, you get what in England they would call a complete mix ration. It has just been a change in farming practices in the last seven years or so."

Palm kernel is easy to get, easy to use and is a good food source. It is high in metabolisable energy (ME) and has traditionally been quite cheap, Mrs Gilbert says.

A certain amount of grass can feed so many cows, but by adding palm kernel to the mix, the farmer can increase the farm's stocking rate.

"So it's been a push to increase production."

And with the drought last year, people haven't had the grass, Mrs Gilbert says. So people who wouldn't normally use more intensive food options have started using them. After grass, palm kernel is the cheapest feed.

"Unlike maize, it doesn't require a lot of capital outlay to start feeding it. Palm kernel is stored in a shed and fed out with a shovel in feeders. It means people have been able to access it quite easily and add it to their feed system."

Some farmers had started using copra from cocoa beans, but it has been discovered that copra has a bacteria in it that passes into the milk. This was downgrading the milk.

"So people who were feeding copra have taken on more palm kernel," Mrs Gilbert says.

Federated Farmers grain and seeds chairman Ian Morten says importing the feed has affected New Zealand maize growers.

"But I think the greater worry is the crap that's coming in with it - the impurities. There's soil, there's timber, there's seeds and it's being fed out on farms. Insects: that's of major concern."

Some importers need to sharpen up their act and Biosecurity NZ needs to apply the rules, Mr Morten says.

"[Palm kernel] coming in here has had to be fumigated. The [palm kernel] goes out on farms in its natural state, so the potential to take those things straight out on to the farm is quite high . . .There's a potential biosecurity hazard there that could destroy the whole industry. We are concerned about it."

Federated Farmers is asking farmers to contact it if they have ever found foreign material in palm kernel.