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