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Agricultural Production Statistics: June 2012 (provisional)
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  17 December 2012

This release contains provisional results for key livestock, forestry, arable, and horticultural crops from the 2012 Agricultural Production Census. The provisional results can change after further processing and analysis of data. Final results for all data will be released on 13 May 2013.

Comparisons made in the commentary refer to the 2007 Agriculture Production Census, the last census conducted.

Figures in this release are rounded. All percentages in this release are calculated using unrounded figures.

Dairy cattle number at 6.5 million due to strong international demand for dairy products

There were 6.5 million dairy cattle in New Zealand at 30 June 2012, continuing the industry's growth in recent years. This was up 5 percent (288,000) from 2011 and up 23 percent (1.2 million) from the total of 5.3 million in 2007.

Strong international demand for dairy products was the main driving force behind the dairy cattle increase. The milk solid price increased from $4.05 per kilogram in January 2007 to a record high of $7.95 in April 2011. Since then, the milk solid price has dropped, although it was still relatively high (at $6.00) at the end of the 2011/ 12 season.

The value of dairy exports (milk powder, butter, cheese, and casein) has also grown significantly over the last five years, with exports increasing 72 percent (to $12.5 billion) since 2007.

Graph, total dairy cows and heifers in milk or in calf, 1990 to 2012.

Sheep number falls 19 percent in past five years

With a provisional estimate of 31.2 million sheep in 2012, there was little change in the size of the national flock from 2011. However, when compared with the previous census in 2007, the number has fallen by 7.3 million (19 percent). Disappointing farm-gate prices for sheep meat between 2007 and 2010, and competition for farm land from the expanding dairy industry, had significant effects on the sheep number. 

Graph, total sheep, 1990 to 2012.

Lambing during the year ended June 2012 was considerably better than in 2011. The lambing percentage for 2012 was 127 percent, compared with 115 percent in 2011 (calculated as total lambs tailed divided by ewes mated in the previous year). The number of lambs tailed increased by 949,000 between 2011 and 2012, with a total of 25.9 million lambs tailed in 2012.

Sheepmeat prices improved in 2011 and 2012 and the outlook is better than in recent years. This is reflected in a slight increase in the breeding stock number (ewes and ewe hoggets put to ram), up 1 percent (223,000) compared with 2011.

Beef cattle number continues to decrease

At 30 June 2012 there was a total of 3.7 million beef cattle, down 15 percent (657,000) compared with 2007. Between 2011 and 2012 the number fell 3 percent, with 110,000 fewer beef cattle in 2012. Pressure from alternative land uses such as dairy grazing has contributed to the continuing decline in the number of beef cattle.  

Graph, total beef cattle, 1990 to 2012.

Deer number continues trend of successive declines

The number of deer has been declining since 2004. There were 1 million deer in 2012, a 25 percent decrease (347,000) since 2007 and down 4 percent (40,000) compared with 2011.

The deer breeding herd has also been reducing, with 3 percent fewer female deer mated in 2012 than in 2011. In 2012, 513,000 female deer were mated, down from 531,000 in 2011.

Graph, total deer, 1990 to 2012.

Pig number falls 14 percent since 2007 as farmers face challenges

There were 316,000 pigs in New Zealand at 30 June 2012, a decrease of 14 percent (51,000 pigs) from 2007. The number of pigs also decreased from 2011 – by 3 percent (11,000).

Production costs for pig farmers have increased by almost 33 percent since 2007, while prices for pork increased less than 6 percent in the same period. Other challenges faced by the pig industry included competition from imported pork, animal disease outbreaks, and increasing costs associated with animal welfare. Between 2007 and 2012, imported pork went up by 18 percent, and it accounted for almost 45 percent of domestic consumption in 2012.

Planting schemes encourage increase in forestry planting

In the year to 31 March 2012, the new area of exotic forest planted was estimated at 11,600 hectares. This was 4,400 hectares more than in 2011 and 9,100 more than in 2007. The increase since 2011 was largely due to new planting schemes such as the Afforestation Grant Scheme and the East Coast Forestry Project being continued. Government plantation schemes, and planting for carbon credits, encouraged foresters to plant more new area compared with five years ago.

During 2012, 41,600 hectares of exotic forest were replanted, 19 percent more than the 35,100 hectares replanted in 2011. (This is the area replanted following clearfelling or salvage logging.)

The total area of exotic forest harvested during 2012 increased to 49,600 hectares, up 5 percent on the 2011 area harvested. Strong international demand for New Zealand forestry products continued to drive the increase in harvesting. The total volume of exotic forest harvested during the year was 25.7 million cubic metres. 

At 30 June 2011, 1.6 million hectares of planted exotic trees and 73,100 hectares of harvested exotic forest area were awaiting restocking.

Further information on forestry trade and production is available from the Ministry for Primary Industries.

2012 a good season for arable crops

The year ended June 2012 was an excellent growing season for wheat and barley. The yield per hectare for wheat reached 8.8 tonnes per hectare, an increase of 21 percent from 2011. Barley reached 6.6 tonnes per hectare in 2012, up 16 percent when compared with 2011. In 2012, the yield per hectare for maize grain was 10.7 tonnes per hectare, down 6 percent when compared with 2011.

In the last five years, the area harvested for the main arable crops has expanded. Since 2007 the area of wheat harvested has increased by 35 percent, to 54,900 hectares in 2012. The area of barley harvested increased by 29 percent, to 66,300 hectares in 2012, and for maize grain the area harvested increased by 19 percent, to 20,200 hectares.

Horticulture results vary for 2012

Wine grapes stabilise due to low prices

In 2012, the area planted in wine grapes was 34,020 hectares, this was similar to 2011's area. Low prices for wine grapes since 2009 has limited the area's expansion.

While there was little movement between 2011 and 2012, the provisional results indicated some regional variation. This may be due to the continued dominance of the sauvignon blanc grape variety. More information will be available in May 2013.

 Graph, area planted in wine grapes, 1990 to 2012.

Impact of Psa not yet detected in amount of area planted

The vine-killing bacterial disease Psa has not, as yet, affected the size of the area planted in kiwifruit. Most gold orchards are being transitioned to the new more Psa-tolerant G3 cultivar. There were 12,820 hectares of kiwifruit canopy area in 2012, slightly less than in 2007 (13,080 hectares). Conversion from green kiwifruit orchards to new gold kiwifruit varieties is continuing, encouraged by high prices for gold kiwifruit.

Area of avocados and peas both increase

The quantity of avocados exported increased to 21.2 million kilograms in 2012, from a low in 2007 of 5.4 million kilograms. Australia took over 80 percent of the exported quantity for the year ended June 2012. The planted area of avocados has shown steady growth since 2007, increasing in 2012 to 4,190 hectares, 5 percent more than in 2007.

In 2012, 6,430 hectares of peas were harvested, a slight increase of 3 percent (200 hectares) when compared with 2011. Relocation of vegetable processors from Australia to New Zealand has increased the contracts offered for growing peas in the last two years. The area of peas harvested has fluctuated during the last five years. When compared with the area grown in 2007, it has decreased 5 percent (360 hecatres).

For more detailed agricultural production data see the Excel tables in the ‘Downloads’ box.

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