Significant Farming Changes Revealed by Agricultural Census

21 February 2003 - For Immediate Release

The number of sheep in New Zealand has been declining since 1982 but increased efficiency means that a big part of the country's economy still rides on the back of sheep farming.

This is one of the key findings in the provisional results of New Zealand's latest agricultural census - the first census to be held in eight years.

The 2002 Agricultural Production Census provisionally estimates that New Zealand's sheep count was 39.2 million as at June 2002 - about 10 sheep for every person. That's a significant drop since the last census in 1994 when there were about 14 sheep per person. The highest number of sheep ever recorded in New Zealand was in 1982 when there were 70 million sheep - about 22 sheep per person.

The agricultural census was conducted jointly by Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and provides a highly important overview of the agriculture industries. The early estimates from the census show that considerable changes have taken place on New Zealand farms in recent years.

Figures show that, in spite of the decline in sheep numbers, New Zealand's lamb exports have continued to rise, partly because of an increasingly productive breeding flock, heavier lambs and favourable export prices. Lamb earned $2.0 billion in export income for the year to June 2002.

Assistant Director General, MAF Policy, Dr Paul Reynolds says that two-thirds of New Zealand's merchandise export earnings now comes from agriculture, forestry and horticulture. That amounts to more than $20-billion annually.

"When first-stage processing and manufacturing are included, these sectors contribute an estimated 17 percent to the New Zealand economy, as measured by GDP," says Dr Reynolds.

It is estimated that there were 5.3 million dairy cattle in New Zealand as at 30 June 2002, so that the national dairy herd has grown by nearly 40 per cent since 1994. This increase was partly due to expansions in existing herds and conversions from other activities to dairy farming between 1994 and 1999. In addition, the herd has increased by a further 24 per cent since 1999, reflecting the increased profitability of dairying over most other land uses and opportunities through irrigation. Dairy products earned $7.1 billion in export income in the year to June 2002.

The national beef herd was estimated at 4.5 million as at 30 June 2002, an 11 per cent decrease since 1994 when the herd stood at 5.0 million. Exports of beef and veal earned over $1.8 billion for the year ended June 2002.

Horticultural exports have grown from $200 million to $2.1 billion over 20 years. Since 2000 there has been a spectacular rise in grapevine plantings which increased in area by 37% to 17,400 hectares. The 2002 census results show that kiwifruit plantings have remained roughly static at 12,200 hectares in recent years, while between 2000 and 2002 the area in apples fell by about 18 per cent to 11,600 hectares.

The areas harvested for squash, onions and sweetcorn (all significant horticultural exports for New Zealand) were estimated at 6,200 hectares, 5,500 hectares and 6,300 hectares, respectively. Areas in squash and onions were down from those of 2000.

At 51,100 hectares, the area planted in wheat for the year ended June 2002 was down slightly from that of 2000. Over the same period the area planted in barley increased by 35 per cent to 76,000 hectares.

"The information from the latest census will be used by central and local government as an input to land use policy and planning, industry forecasting, reporting to international organisations such as the United Nations and the OECD, and underpinning trade negotiations. The private sector should also find the statistics useful in forecasting New Zealand's future needs for agricultural equipment and services," Dr Reynolds says.

Final statistics from the census will be released in May of this year, including detailed data at regional and district level, and additional information on farm types, forestry and land use. Details of the provisional data from the 2002 census are shown in the attached table.

Livestock Numbers1 (000) As at 30 June
  1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002p
Sheep 52 568 50 298 49 466 48 816 47 394 .. .. 45 680 .. .. 39 201
Dairy cattle 3 468 3 550 3 839 4 090 4 165 .. .. 4 316 .. .. 5 318
Beef cattle 4 676 4 758 5 048 5 183 4 852 .. .. 4 644 .. .. 4 483
Deer 1 135 1 078 1 231 1 179 1 192 .. .. 1 677 .. .. ..
Pigs 411 395 423 431 424 .. .. 369 .. .. 345
Lambs from Ewes2 38 716 34 991 36 244 37 018 35 149 .. .. 34 854 .. .. ..
Lambs from Ewe Hoggets2 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Calves born to beef heifers/cows 1 209 1 245 1 263 1 519 1 427 .. .. .. .. .. ..
Calves born to dairy heifers/cows 2 203 2 283 2 456 2 499 2 602 .. .. .. .. .. ..

Source: Statistics New Zealand. Table compiled by the Policy Information Group, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

1 In 2002 the population definition was changed to all units identified on Statistics New Zealand's Business Frame or the Inland Revenue Department's (IRD) Client Register as engaged in agricultural activity. The Business Frame is a list of New Zealand businesses based on registrations for Goods and Services Tax (GST) with the Inland Revenue Department, while the Client Register consists of all businesses registered with that department. In addition, the population was supplemented with information from AgriBase (a national database maintained by AgriQuality New Zealand Ltd), previous agricultural surveys and volunteered industry lists. For a copy of the survey questionnaire see http://www.maf.govt.nz/statistics/primaryindustries/index.htm

2The Agricultural Production Survey collected total lambs marked/tailed up until 1999.

p Provisional .. Not Available

Selected Crops as at 30 June 2002 - Agricultural Production Census
  Area Planted1
(provisional estimates)
Export Volumes and Values
June 2002 Year
  Area Planted Change from 2000 Export Volume Export Value
  (hectares) % (000)kg $(million)
Fruit and Nuts
Kiwifruit 12 200 0.1% 253 616 618.4
Apples 11 600 -17.9% 314 989 420.9
Wine grapes2 17 400 37.3% 19.4 (million litres) 197.3
Avocados 3 100 17.2% 6 322 28.2
Pears 911 -4.9% 9 165 18.9
Apricots 625 -17.7% 1 973 10.5
Strawberries 343 -10.7% 1 019 8.4
Cherries 535 0.9% 527 7.3
Lemons 355 4.7% 1 508 4.5
Oranges 593 -0.7% 553 1.1
Olives 2 630 N/A 15 768(litres) 0.3
Chestnuts 644 N/A    
Macadamias 365 N/A    
Walnuts 458 N/A    
Vegetables
Onions 5 530 -21.4% 178 100.8
Peas 8 330 10.0% 35 728 50.6
Squash 6 160 -8.2% 78 802 81.7
Sweetcorn 6 340 -0.6% 19 791 44.5
Potatoes 10 900 -8.2% 33 709 16.4
Other (outdoor) horticultural crops
Flowers and foliage 1 090 -19.2% N/A 52.3
Nursery crops 2 220 8.1% N/A 10.6
Flower bulb, corm and tuber crops 383 N/A N/A 17.94
Grain crops
Wheat 51 100 -3.2% 9 901 8.33
Barley 76 000 36.2%    
Indoor horticultural crops
  m2      
Orchids 634 000 N/A N/A 20.9
Flower bulb, corm and tuber crops 251 000 N/A N/A 17.94
Total covered area 6 460 000 7.2%    
Total horticultural exports       2,110.0

For further information please visit the MAF website at www.maf.govt.nz/statistics, or contact Paul Reynolds, Assistant Director General, MAF Policy
Phone 04-474-4175.
Or Mieke Wensvoort, Senior Analyst (Statistics), MAF Policy Phone 04-474-4278
Email: mieke.wensvoort@maf.govt.nz

  

 

Last Updated: 30 September 2010

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