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Sheep Numbers Show Slow Growth

Sheep Numbers Show Slow Growth

The sheep industry recorded only modest growth, according to the 2003 Agriculture Production Survey released today by Statistics New Zealand. At 30 June 2003, there were 39.7 million sheep in New Zealand, up from 39.6 million recorded the previous year.

The growth in this period can be partly attributed to dry weather conditions, especially in the northern regions of the South Island and southern regions of the North Island.

Although the survey results show that flocks were reduced in a number of regions, sheep numbers in the Canterbury region increased by 212,000 at 30 June 2003, to reach 8.0 million or 20 percent of the national flock. The Gisborne region also experienced strong growth over this period, with an increase of 210,000 sheep. The most significant losses were in the Waikato and Otago regions, where decreases were recorded of 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

Despite total sheep numbers showing only slow growth, the number of lambs marked or tailed increased by 2 percent to 33.4 million during the year, up from 32.6 million in the 2002 Agricultural Production Census.

Beef cattle numbered 4.6 million at 30 June 2003, an increase of 3 percent on the 4.5 million reported the previous year. In the Canterbury region, beef cattle numbers grew by 10 percent to 554,000, and the Gisborne region recorded a 13 percent increase, to 350,000. The Manawatu-Wanganui and Taranaki regions, which were affected by droughts, recorded decreases of 2 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Survey results show that New Zealand's dairy cattle numbers remained steady over the period, at 5.1 million. The Waikato region, which has one-third of the national dairy herd, recorded a 1 percent increase since June 2002 to reach 1.7 million dairy cattle.

The area of land planted in wine grapes continued to show strong growth, with 19,650 hectares planted in wine grapes at 30 June 2003, an increase of 2,350 hectares or 14 percent. Marlborough and Hawke's Bay, the two largest grape-growing regions, recorded increases of 21 percent (to 9,070 hectares) and 11 percent (to 4,270 hectares), respectively.

Kiwifruit plantings, which have remained relatively constant over the last nine years, totalled 12,360 hectares at 30 June 2003. Bay of Plenty region accounted for 74 percent of New Zealand's total planted area, with plantings of 9,150 hectares.

The 12,150 hectares planted in apples at 30 June 2003 was up 4 percent on the previous year. Hawke's Bay region experienced 8 percent growth to 6,400 hectares, and was the largest apple-growing region, with 53 percent of New Zealand's total planted area.

The new area planted in production forest for the year ended 31 December 2002 was 19,600 hectares, a fall of 42 percent or 14,100 hectares since December 2001. The largest decrease was in the Gisborne region, which recorded a 50 percent reduction in new forest plantings. The 2003 Agricultural Production Survey, a sample survey, is part of a programme of agricultural production statistics produced in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Brian Pink

Government Statistician

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