The recent impact of cyclone Gabrielle in northern New Zealand and the ongoing drought in the southern part of the island have compounded the challenges faced by farmers in the region. Additionally, rising production costs and unfavorable political decisions have further heightened concerns about the future sustainability of the agricultural sector in New Zealand. Farmers are grappling with these multiple challenges, which are posing significant threats to their livelihoods and raising uncertainties about the future of farming in the country.
According to Sam McIvor, the general manager of Beef + Lamb New Zealand, nearly one-third of the country’s sheep and half of its beef cattle are located in the northern parts of the island, which have been declared under a state of emergency due to the recent cyclones, including Cyclone Hale in January. Additionally, another third of the sheep and 14% of the beef cattle are situated in Otago and Southland, regions that are also grappling with the impacts of drought. This means that a significant portion of New Zealand’s sheep and beef cattle, totaling two-thirds, are currently in areas that are either recovering from cyclones or facing the challenges of drought, as highlighted in a column published on March 16 on the Stuff website.
The estimated economic impact of the agricultural damage is estimated to be around 1 billion New Zealand dollars
According to Sam McIvor, the economic impact of the recent weather events not only affects the agricultural sector directly, but also has indirect consequences for veterinarians, shearers, and other professionals who work with farmers. Federated Farmers, a group representing the interests of New Zealand farmers, has estimated that the losses and damages caused by Cyclone Gabrielle could surpass NZ$1 billion for the agricultural sector, exceeding the costs of the severe floods in 2004. With farmers facing financial pressures from livestock and property losses, as well as increasing production costs, Sam McIvor is urging the Prime Minister to address the regulatory burden on the food export sector. He believes that farmers are overwhelmed by policy changes related to the environment and calls for an end to the influx of laws and regulations.
Federated Farmers expresses satisfaction that both Government and Opposition MPs have acknowledged the need to suspend some of the usual Resource Management Act (RMA) red tape for farmers who are repairing cyclone damage.
The methane reduction plan denounced
Sam McIvor raises concerns about the significant increase in agricultural land being sold to the forestry sector in recent years. He highlights that in 2019, 7,000 hectares of land used for sheep and cattle farming were sold to forestry, and this number skyrocketed to 52,000 hectares in 2021. He also criticizes the policy on water and the plan to reduce methane emissions, which he deems too drastic for the cattle herd. He notes that New Zealand is the first country in the world to propose taxing farmers for their emissions, and argues that if farmers are expected to pay for their emissions, they should also receive proper recognition for the carbon-absorbing trees on their farms. McIvor points out that farmers have already made significant efforts, with methane emissions from the sheep and beef sector decreasing by 30% since 1990, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that is unmatched by any other industry.
People called to support farmers
In an effort to garner support from the entire New Zealand population, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, in collaboration with the association 50 Shades of Green, launched the campaign “Kiwis Backing Farmers” on March 7. Sam McIvor, emphasizing the importance of the red meat sector in New Zealand, which generates over $12 billion in revenue annually and supports 92,000 jobs, explains the need to support farmers during this challenging period. He emphasizes that it is crucial to help farmers navigate the financial difficulties they are facing, plan for the future, and ensure the sustainability of their businesses. McIvor urges everyone to come together and support the agricultural sector during these trying times.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand, in partnership with 50 Shades of Green, unveiled the “Kiwis Backing Farmers” campaign. This initiative aims to raise awareness about the numerous environmental policies and proposals that pose a threat to the future of New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms.