Grant Robertson goes future-gazing for dairy farmers (and is gloomy) while Our Bill fluffs his percentages

Look out for this during arguments about dairying..

Look out for this during arguments about dairying..

It’s not too often Alf has to worry about his mate Bill English.

But he did wriggle somewhat uncomfortably today when it sounded suspiciously as if Bill was getting into the soothsaying business.

Labour’s Grant Robertson most certainly was doing it.

But Alf is not surprised to hear that lefties have been desperately poking sticks into chicken entrails or some such to try to read the future, then have emerged to proclaim that the future is looking grimmer than the Government is willing to acknowledge.

Bill was trying to be more comforting, as this Radio NZ report tells us:

He was warning farmers that the low prices they have been getting for their milk are really about to bite (which Alf suspects they already knew).

“The next three months will be about the lowest period of cash coming into dairy farms that we have seen for several years – so that means they will be very tight with their spending…

“We will see what happens as the payments for the next season start coming in through September, October, and they have a bit more cash.”

He was confident the low prices would rebound and farmers would get through it.

Fair to say, Bill did not put a time frame on the rebound.

It’s fair to say, too, that ultimately prices will rebound. They have always done so when there have been downturns in the past.

But Radio NZ went on to report opposition parties as saying the warning was too late and that the Government’s policies were a big part of the problem (which clearly is bollocks).

Labour’s finance spokesperson, Grant Robertson, did not think dairy prices would rise significantly for a year or two, and he said farmers and rural New Zealand were in for a tough ride.

It had taken seven years, but the Government was finally waking up to the fact that the economy needed more diversity, he said.

“That’s a late acknowledgement from the Prime Minister. I mean, a lot of people have been hoping that dairy prices would rebound and almost all of the Government’s projections in the Budget were built on a significant rebound in dairy prices within the next year.”

He said the Reserve Bank Governor and most analysts were now saying that was not going to happen.

Not going to happen – ever?

Or not going to happen in the next year?

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say the latter.

Even so he’s getting into the prophesying racket somewhat more emphatically than our Bill by being more specific with his time-line..

Alf looks forward to the future proving him just as emphatically wrong,.

On another matter, sad to report, Bill was a wee bit astray with his facts.

He disagreed with Winston Peters (it’s easy to do) that the economy was too dependent on dairy.

“It’s what New Zealand’s good at and we have a proud record stretching back a long way now on dairy efficiency and productivity. It is only about six percent of the economy and 20 percent of exports.”

Let’s see:

The official trade stats show dairy exports fetched $12.7 billion in the year to April 30 and total exports amounted to $48.7 billion.

Dunno about your calculator, but Mrs Grumble said those figures strongly suggest the dairy stuff accounted for 26% of the total.

She also observed that this is a much lower percentage than last year for the very important reason that the big drop in dairy prices has seriously shrunk our dairy receipts: last year (to April 30) they were worth $15.2 billion, which is 16.5% higher than this year. This in turn has shrunk the total receipts, which last year were 3.6% higher at $50.5 billion.

This means dairy products accounted for 30% of total exports last year..

Bloody near a third.

Of course, Bill could always argue that (a) 20% is astonishingly close to 26% and (b) that the shrinkage from 30% of total exports to 26% in just 12 months is a damned good measure of the way our exports are being diversified.

He could.

Alf will struggle to keep a straight face if he tries.

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