Doubt that Aussie wool boycott will push up prices

South African wool buyers Doubt the banning of Australian wool by some European companies, because of mulesing, will have an effect on the wool market, as China buys up nearly 70% of Australia’s wool clip.
Issue date: 11 April 2008

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South African wool buyers Doubt the banning of Australian wool by some European companies, because of mulesing, will have an effect on the wool market, as China buys up nearly 70% of Australia’s wool clip. They also contend it would be difficult to identify mulesing-free clips. More than 70% of orders from Europe are now demanding wool from non-mulesed sheep.

Australian Wool International (AWI) chief executive Craig Welsh has given the assurance that the Australian wool industry is committed to finding alternatives to this bloody practice by 2010. At the same time, AWI chairperson Ian McLachlan has tried to soothe European retailers by saying that while mulesing alternatives are being developed, farmers are able to use pain-relief technology on their animals during mulesing.

Although South Africa won’t be directly affected by Australia’s problems, the industry has taken note of consumers’ increased demand for socially responsible, humane and environmentally friendly products. In response, the National Wool Growers Association has proposed the implementation of an industry code of conduct. – Roelof Bezuidenhout and Staff Reporter

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Northern Cape game contract anthrax

The Northern Cape agriculture department has issued an anthrax warning after an outbreak was discovered around the town of Campbell, some 100km west of Kimberley. Farmers have been urged to immediately vaccinate high-value game species and not to open carcasses of animals suspected to have died of anthrax.

This comes just weeks after the Free State agriculture department initiated a vaccination programme along the Free State-Lesotho border after anthrax was reported there. The outbreak was successfully contained and the province remains free of anthrax.

Spokesperson for the Northern Cape agriculture department Thabo Mothibi said some game farms have already lost up to 400 animals. “The province has called in assistance from experts from the Kruger National Park to determine the origins of the multispecies outbreak and how to dispose of the infected carcasses,” said Mothibi. “Kudu are normally the main indicator species in the Northern Cape, but the current outbreak involves all antelope and equid species.”

According to Priscilla Sehoole, chief communication officer at the National Department of Agriculture, there have been no reported cases of anthrax in commercial livestock. “We urge farmers to vaccinate their animals,” said Sehoole.

Farmers are requested to immediately report any suspected anthrax cases to their state vet or an animal health technician. Under no circumstances should any suspect carcasses be opened or the meat eaten. Mothibi warned that protective clothing should always be worn when suspect carcasses are handled. – Annelie Coleman and David Steynberg

Tiger’s offer upsets Tomato farmers

Tomato producers in the lower Olifants River area are disgruntled by the low prices offered by Tiger Brands at their Lutzville tomato paste factory.
“We are currently farming at a loss of R670/t,” said Jean Agenbach, a major producer from Koekenaap. He added that at current prices, there’s no incentive for him to expand his tomato production.

Tiger Brands is planning to expand their cold break processing facility to include a hot break process. Currently the plant processes 38 000t/season. With the planned expansions, this could increase to 70 000t, according to Agenbach.
“Farmers need help when dealing with these big corporates,” said Andrew Cornelissen, another tomato producer from Koekenaap. He feels that their negotiating power is neutralised, as the big companies approach
individually with contracts.

“Anyone can plant tomatoes once-off after a block of vineyard has been uprooted,” said Cornelissen. “But sustainable tomato production is another ball game, as yields decrease dramatically over time on the same land.”
e believes Tiger is using this to strong-arm tomato producers into accepting low prices.

“They fill their production quota with once-off producers before approaching full-
tomato growers,” Cornelissen said. Tiger Brands could not respond at the time of going to press. – Wouter Kriel

Second summer crops forecast

The revised area and second production forecast for summer crops was released recently by the Crop Estimates Committee, following the first estimate for the year on 26 February.

The area planted to commercial maize stands at 2,79 million hectares, while yield
forecast at 10,76 million tons, 1,74% up from the previous forecast. This compares favourably with last year’s second production forecast where 2,54 million hectares had been planted with an expected yield of 7,75 million tons.

The area planted to white and yellow maize is 1,73 million hectares and 1,06 million hectares respectively. Predicted yields are 6,42 million tons and 4,33 million tons respectively.

Yield forecast for sunflower seed is 769 080t, 11,96% higher than the previous forecast, while area stands at 549 300ha. Again, this year’s forecast compares favourably with the same time last year when area planted was 316 350ha, with an expected yield of 314 230t.

Sorghum, soya beans and dry beans all posted positive growth in projected yield, coming in at 255 995t (+8,77%), 297 250t (+5,79%) and 58 975t (+3,35%), respectively. Area planted to sorghum is 89 800ha, soya beans 171 800ha and dry beans 43 800ha.

Forecast yield for groundnuts is 2,66% higher than the previous forecast at 80 650t, while area planted currently stands at 54 200ha. – David Steynberg