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Govt helps primary sector prepare for droughts

Near drought conditions in New Zealand earlier this year.

A new $500,000 fund will help farmers and growers prepare their businesses to recover from drought as the economy gets moving again.

The fund will provide advisory services that usually cost $5000 to equip rural businesses with professional and technical advice to help them recover from and better prepare for future drought.

“As we rebuild the economy following the effects of a global pandemic, we have an opportunity to build back better than before and factor in resilience for our productive primary sector,” says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

“So far this year, the Government has invested $17 million to help drought-stricken regions recover from what many are saying is the worst drought in living memory. It has affected all of the North Island and a good portion of the South.

“Although there has been a bit of rain relief recently, it takes steady rain at the right time to get grass growing again."

The flow-on effects of water shortages and low feed availability take a long time to fully recover from and some farmers will be dealing with the effects of this drought for a year or more.

”One of the unusual consequences of the drought has already started to be noticed by consumers – that being the paler colour of our butter.

“As the saying goes ‘you are what you eat’. The same goes for cows. New Zealand’s unique pasture-based farming system gives our butter a wonderful yellow colour," says Damien.

He says the shortage of grass and reliance on supplementary feed has meant our butter has started to turn white.

"A return to yellow will maintain our competitive advantage in our export markets.

“We know that, with climate change, we can expect more acute weather events so it’s important we help farmers and growers get their businesses ready for future drought.

“Key to recovery is making good decisions, based on sound advice. The purpose of this new fund is to ensure our farmers and growers can tap into this advice.

“The fund will address the longer-term issues but there are also ongoing, acute issues that need to be addressed with urgency. Access to feed is the biggest acute issue so two feed coordinators are in place as of today, one in the North Island and another in the South, to make sure available feed gets from where it is to where it’s most needed.

“The primary sector has shown time and again it has the strength, resilience and ability to recover from tough times and come back stronger than ever. I have every faith that – with this support – they’ll get through this too.’’

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