The Netherlands: Birds Ordered Inside After Bird Flu Scare
The Dutch authorities have ordered poultry farmers to keep their flocks indoors and are testing several dead birds for the H5N8 subtype of the bird flu virus. Several wild birds were found to be carrying the virus in Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary and Switzerland. There are more than 100 million hens, pigs, cows and sheep on high-density farms in the Netherlands and diseases spread rapidly through the densely populated farms. Courtesy of Reuters.
Canada: Dairy Farmers Not Happy with European Trade Deal Payout
The Canadian dairy industry is to receive C$350 million to update and modernise equipment in order to withstand expected tariff-free European cheese imports up to 17,700 tonnes per annum, or 2% of Canada's output, if CETA goes ahead. C$250 million will go to farmers while the remaining C$100 million is intended to help processors, with the money to be paid over five and four years respectively. It's not much compared to the C$4.3 billion over 15 years promised by the last conservative government. This has led to grumbling within a dairy sector worried about CETA's implications, but agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay said: “We certainly do feel it's enough.” Read more here.
US: Future of Farming is Automation
In 1870 half the US population worked in farming but today that figure is 2%. Could agriculture become the first fully automated industry? There are many factors pushing it that way. An ageing workforce, the availability of various robots for various jobs from weeding to milking, self-drive tractors and the cost of human labour, are all driving agriculture in this direction. “If you take a very long view [of] the world of agriculture, you can see that employment has come down as a total share of the world population, while the amount of food produced has gone up. Productivity has dramatically increased and we see robots as the next step in enabling that," says Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, leading author of a new report on this phenomenon. Read more on Fact Coexist.
Zimbabwe: New Agricultural Initiative to Boost Food Security
Decades of political machinations have been blamed for the destruction of Zimbabwe's once-vibrant farming industry, even causing periodic famine in Africa's very breadbasket, but the much maligned government of Robert Mugabe is now belatedly taking steps to increase food security. The Command Agriculture Initiative is offering selected farmers access to inputs, including seed, fertilizer, irrigation and equipment, to the value of US$500 million over three years. Participating farmers are contracted to grow 5 tonnes of maize on 400,000 hectares under supervision from government experts.
Zimbabwe's farmers currently manage only 0.8 tonnes per hectare across 1.2 million hectares while just 2 tonnes per hectare on this ground would feed the whole country. Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo told reporters that 163,365 ha of land has been earmarked with 75% of it already tilled, while 19,608 farmers have benefited from the program. Zimbabwe's planting season is from November to early January depending on rains. "Under this program, 2,658 agricultural extension workers and 91,000 farmers were trained with a total of 1,229 learning centers having been established," he said. About 4 million Zimbabweans receive food assistance each year. Read more on Xinhua.
Singapore: What's it like to be a female farmer in Singapore?
Singapore is not a place readily associated with agriculture as it is a city state with very limited land resources. Perhaps as a reaction to its rampant high-density development, the Edible Garden City has emerged as a major force in reconnecting people with domestically-produced food. Amando Oh is a 24 year-old Chemical and Bio-molecular graduate working for the Edible Garden City: “After looking at what Edible Garden City does, it was clear that the company had something amazing to offer.” She adds: “I see farming as a way that I can immerse myself in nature, to learn to be open to the wondrous creations around me. I think my training as an engineer offers me a different perspective as I approach farming. The most valuable lesson that I learnt from Bjorn is that urban farming IS possible, that growing your own food is not limited to people who have land or have green fingers. All it takes is the willingness to learn and just grow.” Read more here.
Brazil: Farmland market sliding into “negative returns”
Finance Company BTG Pactual has undermined attempts to attract investment in Brazilian agriculture by saying Brazilian land offers “negative returns”. Interest rates of 14%, inflation of 8.5% and sluggish increases in land values of just 5.2% have prompted the observation, which is based on SLC Agricola's 322,529 hectare portfolio which is valued at R$3.69 billion (US$1.09bn). "The data on SLC's farms confirm the trends already posted… namely, that the recent drop in commodity prices, sub-par land market liquidity and higher interest rates are limiting land price appreciation potential." Read more on Agrimoney.
Australia: Chinese Investment in Australian Agriculture Growing
Chinese interests now own 1.46 million hectares, more than double the amount registered by the Australian tax office in June. This is as a result of a recent flurry of land sales. This acquisition drive has come mainly from Shanghai Zenith, the Australian subsidiary of Shanghai CRED which has purchased the Western Australian ranches of Mount Elizabeth (200,000 ha) and Yakka Munga (189,000 ha), as well as gaining apporval to buy 400,000 ha of pastoral land in Goldfields, WA. Australia is a very popular investment for Chinese millionaires, of whom over 800,000 plan to invest overseas, according to the Hurun Report, released Monday. Read more on Chinadaily.