Strong Currency Scant Consolation in Face of Drought

NEW ZEALAND – Widespread drought conditions have warranted adverse event declaration and led to farmer criticisms about the strength of the New Zealand dollar.
calendar icon 1 March 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

Impacts are being felt on the north and south islands after months of dry weather have took their toll on the land.

Federated Farmers of New Zealand has said high commodity prices are currently of little benefit to farmers.

Drought confirmation, authorities have said, is not a call for charity but a signal for organisations like Rural Support Trust Northland to coordinate advisory and counselling services.

Also triggered by the confirmation is flexibility from the Inland Revenue.

Rural Assistance Payments are available but only a small percentage of farmers are expected to qualify for this level of aid.

Milk yields are down 15-20 per cent years on year in the worst affected areas. Key sheep and beef areas have been hit.

“It seems dairy production is not just falling but in some key areas is starting to crash,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Given there is still a fair proportion of the dairy season left to run, dairy farmers are either on once a day milking or looking at drying cows off. Once that takes place, it is the end of milking until August.”

Mr Wills stressed that in addition to north island drought patters, the north part of the South island is also very dry.

“We can add into the mix inland Taranaki, the West Coast of the South Island and even Southland,” added Mr Wills. “We have also spoken to colleagues in horticulture, another one of our top-ten exports and they are now finding things increasingly tough as well.”

The importance of food production to national agriculture mean that there is no justification for the current value of the kiwi dollar, said Mr Wills.

“Any short term uplift in commodity prices will likely reflect supply concerns and while helpful, it won’t provide a cash boon for farmers or the economy,” he concluded.

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