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In this issue
  1. 1. World Economic Growth Projections
  2. 2. NZ Ag Scene
  3. 3. AU Ag Scene
  4. 4. Rabobank NZ Farmer Confidence - Sept '21
  5. 5. Rabobank Australia Farmer Confidence - Sept '21
  6. 6. Freight
  7. 7. Red Meat Snapshot
  8. 8. The War to Come

Trying to get a handle on ag in Australia and NZ is akin to catching a greasy pig at the local gymkhana. You read something and it says this, read another article and it zigs to that, but if I had two insights to share right now it is that a) it's a great time to be in any ag sector across ANZ except avocados (both countries), wine (AU) and wool (NZ) and b) the rich are indeed getting richer. Food inflation is dealing it to poor nations especially and the increases will impact vast numbers though 1.2bn people have been lifted from abject poverty since 1990, and this good work will continue.

The next thing on the horizon for ag?... COP26, the Glasgow Summit where ag will be front and centre as a leading GHG emitter. It's going to be interesting.

Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy reading October's State of Ag.
~ Andy Walker

In this issue
  1. 1. World Economic Growth Projections
  2. 2. NZ Ag Scene
  3. 3. AU Ag Scene
  4. 4. Rabobank NZ Farmer Confidence - Sept '21
  5. 5. Rabobank Australia Farmer Confidence - Sept '21
  6. 6. Freight
  7. 7. Red Meat Snapshot
  8. 8. The War to Come

1. World Economic Growth Projections

World Economic Growth Projections

Fact is that every time I reference this information, the numbers seem to be surprisingly good though the IMF is saying that the prognosis for low income countries… has darkened considerably due to worsening pandemic dynamics.

NZ is expected to grow by 4% 2021 and AU by 3.5% (revised downward from 5% due to the lockdowns).

Food inflation

Food prices globally have shot up 33% Sept ’21 YOY causing some countries to cease or cap exports to keep food within reach of their communities. This covers meat, dairy, grains fruit and veges (others no doubt) and is a factor of covid, freight, input costs and crop losses. Overall good for farmers across ANZ, not so for some of the poorer countries worldwide… Argentina up 53% Aug ’21 YOY, Armenia 15.4%, Brazil 13%, Egypt 11%, Georgia 16%, Iran 60%, Nigeria 20%, Zimbabwe 54%, Venezuela 2190% YOY May ’21. The west is much better off ranging up to 5% with Australia at 0.7%. Highlights the point that we’ll see a widening between the rich and poorer nations, and sectors within.

2. NZ Ag Scene

NZ Ag Scene

Red Meat

This from Heartland Bank where we see record prices being paid for stock as processors look to fill plants in a relatively tight supply situation. Export markets, China and the US are still performing well according to Heartland – China takes 32% of total NZ exports (NZD411m worth), up 8.5% YE June ’21. NZ sales to the US are down on last year according to Rabobank but demand, which normally trails off, as they head into winter – the end of their “sizzle”, or bbq season, is still rolling on. Perhaps because of the return of food service is also responsible.

Export-wise, NZ red meat was up 25% in August ’21 on last year hitting historic highs.

Here’s a headline you don’t see every day in NZ farming publications:

“Dairy passes the baton to meat as prices surge to record highs”

A clear signal of the trajectory of red meat.

Beef

Exports to the big three were all up; China +89% to $117m in August, US +31% to $102m, Japan +31% to $15m. The reason? The MIA (Meat Industry Assn) talks of an AU rebuild and Argentina export restrictions (having capped their beef exports to 50% to stop food inflation hitting amid a 65% increase in beef locally). The ABC also reports that Brazil (the world’s leading beef exporter) has halted all exports in September due to the discovery of mad cow disease (BSE) which led to a temporary halt to China (who take >50% of their production). It looks like China has extended this ban again which won’t do a lot for their already dented food safety record.

Beef prices are predicted to remain high through to at least end of October (Rabobank) but they may be rethinking that prediction.

Lamb

Look at this for a recovery (as reported by AgriHQ). An incredible turnaround (from the beginning of covid) reaching record prices, hitting the $9’s. And it’s thanks to the covid jab and restaurant trade coming back in key markets, oh and the canny farmer holding back on supply to achieve higher weights. These prices are expected to hold for the foreseeable future.

The NZ lamb crop is expected to hit 22.8m, an increase of just 0.9% YOY with afforestation of good farmland and the drop in breeding sheep numbers seen as the issues.

Pizzle Anyone?

If you don’t know what a pizzle is I’ll let you google it. Anyway NZ leads the world in the export of deer pizzles and since ’94 have exported 17 tonnes of the things (a lot of pizzles) largely to China where they’re cooked in hot pots and broth to aid sexual vigour. Enough said.

Dairy

You’ll be hard pressed to find a dairy farmer complaining about the payout this year as you can see from this table showing the major dairy companies and tracking payouts for the previous seven years.

Source: Interest.co.nz

The darling of them all though is Tatua – not featured on the table above for 20/21 but they recently reported a payout of $9.25 kgMS for the year. Tatua’s almost the perfect model – they take milk from 106 farmers located within a 14k radius I believe, (for optimum quality product), and produce a range of products, predominantly wholesale food ingredients. Good for them – they’ve found an alternative and very successful model.

But spare a thought for Fonterra. They have 10,000 farmers representing 80% of the NZ market share and up until mid last year were forced under legislation to take milk from any farmer that wanted to supply. A tough model. Now though they don’t have to take milk from new farm startups/conversions but still for 10k farmers they’ve got to have a tanker up every road in every remote area of NZ where there’s a dairy farm.

Fonterra is NZ’s largest company representing 20% of the country’s total export earnings and was heading for its first loss in 20 years when Miles Hurrell took over mid 2018. They’ve moved out of a lot of investments (largely overseas) that had failed to live up to expectations and have gone from being derided to being lauded for a more down to earth, common sense approach.

And in case you’re wondering why they have a dividend column in the above table, farmers have to buy shares in Fonterra so the payout you see here is a consequence of their purchase (a return on their investment) rather than milk returns.

Here’s how the forecasts are looking for 21/22 according to Interest.co.nz

Note: ASB have just revised their forecast to $8.75.

Nobody’s going to be complaining about these prices which essentially mean that if you’re running 750 cows producing 385kgMS per cow (that’s not a big number) then @ $8.10 your turnover is going to be $2,338,875 and EFS (effective farm surplus) assuming $5.47 kg MS operating expenses will be $759,412 EBITDA. Good times down on the farm (and these will be early season, relatively conservative forecasts).

Just going back two years this adds another $288,750 to the bottom line so why are dairy farmers in particular a lot more pessimistic than in recent years? See Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey below.

Kiwifruit

NZ’s biggest fruit sales @ $3.58bn yielding its 2,900 growers (of which 81% live in the Bay of Plenty Region) $66,453 per HA for organic Green and, wait for it…. $177,846 per HA for Sungold in a bumper 20/21 season.

But they have a problem in that a grower smuggled some cuttings (Sungold of course) into China around 2015 and suddenly thousands of hectares are in production over there. They found the guy, Haoyu Gao, who was selling budwood there at NZD60,000 a lot; he had to pay $14m in damages but the horse has bolted because there’s now 5,200ha in China, a little shy of the total in NZ. Zespri put several proposals to growers to try to tackle the problem but growers voted to not take them up. China takes 20% of the NZ crop.

Don’t forget the Sungold growers are paying up to $550,000 per ha just for the licence, and say $300k per ha to develop it. That’s $800,000 per ha just to put them in the ground and develop the infrastructure – then you wait for 3 years to get a crop which starts to hit it’s straps at 5 years. They’re continuing to “monitor the situation”.

Apples

One of the most labour intensive crops to produce have finally got a break from a government who last year made ‘not listening’ an art form. They’ve agreed to a quota of 14,000 RSE workers coming in from the islands. Last year up to 40% of the crop was damaged through adverse weather but growers were still not able to pick the entire crop. Normally NZ takes about 12,500 RSE workers from the islands but NZ Apple & Pear reckon they’ll need another 2,500 with a bumper crop and record plantings so it looks ok at this stage.

Wool

If the below doesn’t tell the story of the NZ wool industry nothing will. Sure there’s been a decline of the national flock from 40 million in 2000 to 26 million odd today but the issue is markets don’t want wool, even more-so since covid with a fall in prices from around $2.50/kg to less than $1.00/kg.

Campaign for Wool NZ Chair Tom O’Sullivan says it cost him $30,000 to shear his sheep last year so essentially the act of taking the wool off becomes an animal health issue. NZ’s problem is that 85% of the total clip is in coarse wools.

Now farmers are saying they need a single organisation to promote and develop it – well they had that in the Wool Board until a McKinsey report in 2000 recommended dissolving it.

Anyway there is hope – Wools of New Zealand (WNZ) and Primary Wool Co-operative (PWC) are calling on farmers to vote to promote the proposed operations merger of the two major wool entities. Can’t hurt, let’s hope it goes ahead.

Wine

The 2021 vintage was described as exceptional but small at 370,000 tonnes of grapes, 19% down on last year because of weather conditions. Always in demand, particularly the Marlborough Sauvignon, this has forced wineries to make tough decisions as to who to supply in an endeavour to maintain faith with customers; and we’re talking 7-9 million litres in arrears (try drinking that at once).

The calendar year ended Dec 2020, the exported $2.01bn in wine across NZ’s 732 growers. Here we see the clear dominance of world renowned NZ Marlborough Sauvignon variety (though personally I find it somewhat acerbic on the palette… wine speak).

Broadly, the August 2021 NZ Wine Annual Reports that from a survey of members, around a quarter are feeling negative in their outlook, the same are neutral , the bulk are positive and say 10% very positive. Sauvignon growers will be the most positive I’d imagine.

Machinery Sales

TAMA (Tractor & Machinery Association) reports a 35% increase in imports for tractor and machinery for the 6 months ended June 2021 c.f. 2020:

  • <50 hp up 40%
  • 60-80hp (orchard tractors largely) up 50%
  • 100-140hp over 30% increase
  • 180-250hp over 50%.

TAMA reports the frustration of delivery delays and price increases in raw materials with:

  • steel – representing 30-40% of a tractor has more than doubled in 12 months
  • aluminium +22%, copper +63%, rubber +67%, foundry products + 90% in nine months across Asia, USA, Europe.

Now we see the power crisis in China has caused many magnesium plants to shut and others to run at 50% capacity. Europe has enough stock till end of November after which millions of jobs will be affected in all industries requiring aluminium and steel. China supplies 87% of magnesium globally.

Avocados

NZ has 2,000 avocado growers, producing around $154m a year who export $112m ($84m or 77% to AU) and according to RNZ “Everyone’s going to run at a loss this year” because Australia has an oversupply and Kiwis aren’t eating enough due to the Covid disruption to food service. You’ve also got higher shipping costs to Asia but the real action is in AU.

The problem is that Australia has three million trees of its own and 50% of them were planted in the last five years. Add to this, a favourable season and you have a 65% increase in production, a promise of consistently large crops and a decrease of dependence on NZ imports.

Globally, Aussies consume the highest amount per capita at 4kg a year, followed by NZ and the US. Europe and the UK don’t eat a lot and are considered potentials. There’s not a lot of talk about Asia from what I can see as their consumption per capita is low and of the 17 odd countries NZ exports to, they collectively add up to only about 26% of the total.

Either way you cut it, NZ’s got some scrambling to do.

A Howl of a Protest

Some 60,000 farmers and sympathisers throughout NZ protesting, here’s what it was about:

The freshwater policy – this is a biggie for farmers yet it’s a nightmare to understand and very onerous, even the experts can’t understand it and if I showed you a series of slides on it, your eyes would glaze over.

The ute tax – so they tax utes because they’re diesel with higher emissions and take that money and discount the price of electric vehicles yet there’s no electric alternative in utes and farmers and tradies in particular have to have a ute. Brilliant.

Overseas workers – man the government’s cost this country with their shambolic handling of the RSE scheme which prevented the 12,000 odd workers coming into NZ, not to mention dairy and other sectors. They were happy to let the Wiggles and cast of the Lion King in though. At last they seem to have got the message for the coming year but they have no idea how much stress and financial loss they applied to the sector.

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – this is a beauty, farmers wanting to exit the industry will naturally sell to the highest bidder, forestry companies and those wanting to gain carbon credits at a 50% price premium. One simple search and these headlines come up – 7 within a month, 5 within a week.

Forestry’s fine for class 6 & 7 land but for class 1-5 for forestry is inexcusable. One last thing – some of these guys have no intention to harvest the trees.

Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) – seen as a modern day land grab by councils and farmers, this gives the right for the government to identify and tell the farmer what to do with it and, I think at their own expense. This has met opposition which has lead our venerable Associate Environment Minister, James Shaw, to call them “a group of Pakeha farmers from down south”. Lovely, oh and racist but also incorrect as:

  • councils throughout NZ are against it
  • and about 1,000 people in the far north have protested – not down south
  • and they comprised both Maori and pakeha farmers.

Conclusion – I’m not against this stuff, and neither are NZ farmers. It’s necessary to do more environmentally and farmers will, but we are talking to a brick wall of a government who asks for consultation and have proven to then stonewall it. I read a senior NZ political journo of 20 years saying “this government promised to be open and transparent, but it is an artfully-crafted mirage”. She says, “In my 20-year plus time as a journalist, this Government is one of the most thin-skinned and secretive I have experienced”. She’s never had such a hard time getting information out of a government. Sorry – a bit off track there.

Point is, farmers do not feel listened to and it takes a lot for them to protest. So when 60,000 farmers, ute drivers and supporters do so, the Prime Minister still refuses to meet with them. We’re talking about the only industry propping NZ up right now. Somebody shoot me!

3. AU Ag Scene

Beef

These graphs highlight two things:

  1. The national herd’s rebuilding to pre-drought levels after falling to record lows
  2. The cattle slaughter is predicted to be the lowest in 36 years because of the rebuilding and farmers holding stock because of excellent pasture growth.

So re-stockers and processors continue to arm wrestle and prices remain high. AU’s exports are forecast to rise by 3% to almost $10.1 billion in 2021-22; numbers will be down but a combination of prices and heavier carcass weights will provide an off set. These prices, EYCI from the Weekly Times, put beef at AUD10.44c a kilo – $257.50c ahead of last year and well ahead of NZ at NZD6.50c.

Sheep Meat

Prices are benefitting by Chinese and US demand largely through the return of food service though there’s still active restocker activity going on which too is pushing prices – the AU flock is predicted to climb significantly by 10.4% to 70.6m with Sheep Central predicting it reaching 76m in 2023, on top of which prices are predicted to remain strong and are not expected to move from the current 791c/kg and mutton around $6/kg. Everybody’s happy.

Lamb Skins

These have been worth $1-$2 per pelt for suckers (aka slinks in NZ) in recent years and now has risen to $8-$11 thanks to a resurgence in the fashion industry by the looks. Another value-add to the farmer at no added cost.

Milk

Dairy Australia predicts a 2% rise in milk production 2021/22 to 8.8-9bn litres and prices to increase by 7cents a litre which means the farmer is smiling. At the same time high rainfall provides a triple blessing:

  • more grass hence the need to buy in less feed
  • feed costs, if you do need some, are down by as much as 43%
  • lower water prices and greater allocations.

It’s estimated that 1m cows were culled through the drought period so you’d expect to see the impact of a rebuild looking ahead.

Increased demand is in part due to the Chinese bosses issuing a directive to its people to consume more than a glass of milk a day to ward off the effects of Covid. Keep that Covid at bay I say!

Avocados

Similar to the NZ situation:

  • in 2018 an avo in Australia cost $9.00
  • right now it’s $1.00
  • Australia has three million avocado trees, 50% of which were planted in the last five years
  • plus this season very favourable conditions and more trees in production resulting in a 65% increase.

An article in ABC rural talks of a grower, Russell Delroy, who beaks even at $1.50, makes decent money at $2.00, spent $400,000 getting pickers from the islands and now they are retailing for as little as $1. Like NZ, if their production keeps scaling they’re going to have to develop export markets, and compete with NZ while doing it. AU currently exports <5% of production and with production tipped to hit another 50%, on top of the current bumper crop, they’re in for an interesting ride.

Grains

Another very solid year in the making as you’ll probably know, with record high plantings and above average yields according to ABARES. Production will be up on long term averages though down on last year’s boomer.

Canola

On top of existing record prices, Rabobank points out that the emissions debate could play into the hands of canola with North America and Europe expected to lift global demand for oilseeds, and in particular canola, through to 2030. They say that government initiatives in the Northern hemisphere will change and be the key drivers of the global canola market though it will take 3-5 years to start kicking in.

Meanwhile Canada’s drought (they’re the world’s largest canola producers) and strong demand from the EU has benefited other exporters including AU who exported 151,763 tonnes of canola in August, up 39% from July, this compared to the 1636t of August last year.They’re on track to produce 5m tonnes this year.

Chickpeas and Lentils

A similar story to Canola with 57,550t of chickpeas exported in August and 119,440t of lentils – up 55% and 92% respectively in July. India, Australia’s largest pulse market, has recently dropped all its tariffs and Canada, the world’s largest grower, being in drought has had a major impact.

Wheat

AU’s share of global exports is forecast to hit 12% in 21/22 up from only 5% two years ago and is expected to be the world’s third largest exporter in the short term. And prices are expected to rise by 8% to USD290 a tonne on the back of declines in production in Canada, US and the Black Sea and high consumption demands. China, who holds 50% of the world stocks, doesn’t make it available to others.

Barley

Aussie exporters have done a brilliant job in replacing the Chinese market with sales into Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam with ABARES predicting strong sales again in line with production of 12.5m tonne. Though not priced as well as wheat in the stock feed market where its metabolisable energy conversion is less, it still remains in the 78th percentile of pricing in the last 10 years according to Mecardo. Feed barley is predicted to increase by 7% to $249T in 21/22. World barley production is expected to decrease by 7% to 149m tonnes.

Spare Parts

During harvest you can’t afford downtime so the need for spare parts is crucial and farmers have been urged to buy the more consumable products to have them on hand. John Deere has recently chartered two flights to Au to bring in 100 tonne of parts to keep things going.

Wine

Here’s AU’s wine exports YE 2020. Because of tariffs ranging from 80% to 175% being slapped on from China, sales have declined to $274m, a 77% hit.

The bottom line – total exports dropped in 12 months by 24% YOY Sept ’21. Tough times but a damn good effort as winemakers had to hustle to replace such a prominent market. Another factor is that the margins AU vintners were getting out of China were the biggest of any country.

The grape harvest was down in each of 2018, ’19 and ’20 but ’21 was a record crush so there’s more scrambling to come. If however you take China out of the picture, sales rose last year by 12% as some markets opened more, others were developed so hopefully there’s a platform to grow from.

Cotton

Did you know that 7 October was the “World Cotton Day?” Well it was, and in AU it looks like the growers are still celebrating as they ready themselves for what is predicted to be one of the best seasons in decades, a factor of:

  • strong international demand
  • great growing conditions
  • plenty of water.

There’s a real success story here:

  • two years ago production was 600k bales, ’21 was 2.5m, ’22 expected at 4.5m
  • and 50% of the ’22 crop is pre-sold at around $670 a bale; earlier this year they highlighted $550 per bales as “buoyant”.

Two years ago, China took 70% of the AU crop and because their mills were told to look elsewhere, Australian markets have been developed particularly in Vietnam (largest customer) and Indonesia (no.2), what’s more they’re close by, a major benefit in this freight disrupted world.

These prices are up on the back of a predicted drop in the Chinese crop, Brazil being down 10-20% and a drop in the US.

Online sales companies have become the world’s apparel store. Coupled with this, the Coronavirus has created a strong and growing demand for cotton clothing, cotton personal care items, and medical supplies. This represents essentially a new demand for cotton alongside a resurgence of demand from the textile industry so the long-term prospects look good.

Wool

At last I read an article from GlobeNewswire predicting the global wool market to grow 4.8% CAGR (combined annual growth rate) between 2021-26 based on the back of demand for natural fibre in an authentic world. And driven by millennials, no less. According to IWTO (International Wool Textile Organisation), 50% of wool is 100% pure organic carbon (I guess that’s a good thing) which is driving consumption of luxury wool products.

But wait – China’s power crisis, which causes regular shutdowns (and a surge in candle sales) is slowing wool’s recovery. Driven by economic upturn and a surge in energy demand exceeding pre-pandemic levels, and with the prospect of the looming colder months, things are likely to get worse. So some Chinese mills are cutting back production by up to 40%. Nobody can predict how long this goes on for but the Chinese are still buying and Europe’s starting to open up.

Bottom line, the wool market is one great big yoyo but prices look relatively strong in the medium term.

Machinery Sales

And it keeps rolling on, with the TMA reporting… the month of August has been another outstanding one for tractor sales across the nation with a rise of 40% on the same month last year. This now sees the year-to-date figure 30% above last year with a running rate well in excess of 16,000 tractors per annum.

All regions are up considerably in all classes of tractors but we should note the header market with more than 200 units sold YTD with sales exceeding 800 units according to the TMA.

The only category that’s down is balers, on the back of a very strong year last year.

4. Rabobank NZ Farmer Confidence - Sept '21

This proves that confidence is about more than money. After the past few quarters of farmers gaining in confidence things have slipped back with government policy and input costs being the key problems, commodity prices being mentioned by those with a positive response.

Farm performance was predicted to drop marginally but, as they usually do, farmers have a better view of their performance than of that of other farmers (80% of the average population say they are above average drivers too – how does that work?).

Confidence across the nation dropped from +13% last quarter down to a net zero with the number of farmers expecting the rural economy to improve over the next year dropping from 32% to 23%. The number expecting it to improve rose to 23%.

Dairy farmers are the least optimistic despite forecast record returns with only 20% expecting an improvement, down from 35% last quarter and the reason cited by Todd Charteris, Rabobank NZ CEO, is the weather, labour, and “the time consuming consultation meetings on a raft of environmental regulations”, not to mention their implementation.

Sheep and beef farmers were slightly more optimistic on the back of prices, and they’re also not as intensive as dairy and are not subject to as much legislation. It still registers as a concern for them however.

And the horticulturalists are back into positive territory, largely in the light of the seasonal labour issue having been mitigated for the coming season.

Subsequently investment intentions rose marginally with 25% intending to increase (up 1%) and 11% decrease (from 13%). Dairy farmers intend to decrease their investment, and 30% sheep and beef looking to increase.

But do you know what will happen – farmers will discover there actually is life on the other side of legislation, they’ll somehow find a way to navigate through it all, prices will remain high and their cheque books will loosen up – anybody want to bet me?

5. Rabobank Australia Farmer Confidence - Sept '21

Good on the Aussie farmers recording the 3rd highest level of optimism in the 20 year history of the survey with 90%  expecting the current high commodity prices and favourable conditions to continue – that’s massive.

You don’t need to know much more – it’s driven largely by commodity prices across red-meat, grains and cotton etc as well as favourable farming conditions. This is across all sectors and states… a particular mention of Tasmania where the grand total of 100% of all farmers surveyed expecting conditions to remain or improve in the next year – what’s in their water?

Investment – and of course this drives through to heavy investment intentions with 37% looking to increase investment and 56% maintaining current levels.

6. Freight

Global trade rebounded rapidly in September ’20 to reach and remain at record levels though for perspective it’s running at 3% up on pre-Covid levels. Maersk’s global container shipping demand was up only 2.7% Q2 ’21 but the price of a 40 foot container was up 63% compared to Q2 2019. If you’re buying on the spot market you’re talking 6 to 7 times that of 2019.

It’s hard to feel sorry for the shipping companies but they put this down to the skewing of global demand occurring in the US causing congestion and similar in Asia. Alphaliner (a shipping information platform) says that this congestion means some shippers need 20-25% more capacity to carry the same cargo. Why? Well, all the assets are in the wrong place and everything that can float is being used. The prediction is that leading into ’22 congestion will ease and prices will “tumble” yet remain high but I’ll let you decide if there’s been a bit of gouging going on.

For growers and farmers this means higher input costs are here to stay.

7. Red Meat Snapshot

Global meat consumption is expected to grow at 1.7% through 2021. Red meat is a major export across ANZ, but carries the hope of grains’ farmers on their shoulders as well given 45% of the world’s grains is eaten by stock. So I had a look at what’s been predicted and in red meat consumption over the next few years. I found a very interesting MIT article written in April ’21 headlined …

“We’re on track to set a new record for global meat consumption”

They say that’s a problem for the climate. But the solution can’t be to tell people to stop eating meat.

  • Bill Gates made headlines earlier this year for saying that “all rich countries should move to100% synthetic beef”
  • nevertheless United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation projects that global meat consumption will rise by more than 1% this year
  • The fastest growth will occur in low and middle income countries, where incomes are steadily climbing

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation projects:

They predict this will generate a rise in global emissions by 60% in 2050 but trying to steer (no pun intended) consumers from meat is not practical and predict fake meat sales to impact red meat by 25% only.  They say…

“We must not lay our hopes on the prospect of billions of people putting down their forks at once. Rather, we should use all the tools at our disposal. That means supporting dietary changes, alternative proteins, low-impact livestock, and other approaches to reduce the downsides of meat production and give us more sustainable options of what to eat”.

At last a bit of common sense saying we’ve got to continue to find better farming practices and embrace alternative foods.

8. The War to Come

Farmers have, and will continue to become, targets of the environmentalists and a report commissioned by AgriFutures Australia and written by the Institute for the Future and Agthentic Advisory warns of an online war that will be unleashed on farmers and the industry in the next ten years including a deliberate spread of misinformation which could trigger a decline in people’s trust in people, brands and industries. Well it’s happening now. The report speaks of:

  • “Deepfakes” – undetectable AI manipulated photos and videos
  • Conversational AI – a neural network that writes and converses and is indistinguishable from a human
  • Botnets – automated tasks.

The writer considers food safety and reliability are easy targets but I reckon there are two fronts that we’ll see greater levels of misinformation (aka “lies” – did I say that out loud?) that are currently and will continue to be the major fronts that are attacked by fringe groups and commercially interested parties:

  • animal cruelty
  • chemicals

At the recent E Tipu Boma 2021 Agri Summit, a presenter beamed in from Australia; a futurist who challenged everybody’s thinking on how they see the world in everything from 3D printing of houses to new ways of travel. But what rolled off his tongue as smooth as silk was the issue of lab grown meat in a “cruelty free” environment. That’s a phrase I hear used constantly and it won’t be long till it becomes a generic term that’s taken as read.

Another example, an Israeli cultured meat facility described as “slaughter-free meat production” called Future Meat Technologies. Note the hyphen as if “slaughter” and “free” belong together. They then go on to say that “Future Meat’s cruelty-free production…”.

This company makes the following claims:

  • production of the equivalent of 5,000 hamburgers a day from cell-based meat production
  • production of cultured chicken, pork and lamb without genetic modification
  • enables a production cycle 20 times faster than animal agriculture
  • cost parity
  • 80% less GHG
  • 99% less land
  • 96% less freshwater
  • will hit the shelves in 2022.

Google “5,000 burgers a day” to read more.

And what about this from the Genetic Literacy Project:

An activist-based PR campaign is poised to claim that the Earth faces a silent spring-like ‘insect armageddon.’ Will The New York Times and other media fall for the ‘hysteria con’ once again?

A rather long read, but they say that claims of a 76% decrease in flying insects in 26 years co-authored by 12 scientists, has become the sixth most discussed scientific paper of that year and still remains popular. They’re calling it Insectaggedon though the wider scientific community say it’s woefully short on fact and makes “bizarre” claims with “inflammatory rhetoric”.

So there’s two factions traditional agriculture faces:

  1. The emotively based minority groups with big lungs
  2. The corporate sector that are doing us all a favour by producing cultured lab and plant based imitations, and making money; many billions to be made through consumer acceptance.

Referring back to the Agrifutures article we can’t say “the War is coming in the next ten years”, because it’s here right now and what is being said will influence consumer choices. I’ve been to conference after conference and heard speakers say “we must embrace the alternative food movement”, I’ve heard NZ’s Agricultural Minister say we beat it by producing top quality niche product. All nice things to say but agriculture needs a stronger balanced voice to counter the many emotive arguments that are simply accepted at face value.

And I wonder what the average consumer would think if they knew of the many gains farmers have and are making in sustainability. But no, they don’t because nobody tells them – and when they do it’s more often in the farming pages, not in mainstream media.

One other thing – this talk of “cruelty-free farming”. Truth is that a farmer’s priority is animal welfare and ensuring their animals are healthy at all times.

Tracta | Champions of Agribusiness - Rural Specialist

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