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New report highlights arable niche for New Zealand

Enterprise Ashburton: New report highlights arable niche for New Zealand

A new report on the arable industry in New Zealand highlights this country's potential for expanding its global niche.

Commissioned by Enterprise Ashburton and carried out by one of New Zealand's leading seed companies - Midland Seeds - the report identifies for the first time the extent of the arable industry in New Zealand.

It also gives an insight into Mid Canterbury's contribution to arable production in both New Zealand and the world.

Key findings include the fact that Mid Canterbury provides 50% of the world's requirement for radish seed, a quarter of New Zealand's feed grains, and is a key supplier of the world's bok choy seeds exported to Asia.

Enterprise Ashburton chief executive Rob Brawley said the research is a compilation of new and existing information, prompted by the lack of data readily available nationwide on the arable industry in Mid Canterbury.

"Unlike the dairy industry where information sharing is encouraged by the shareholder returns system, the arable industry model is extremely competitive. The system of grain contracts means an arable farmer is not encouraged to share keys to his or her success."

However, this research will be widely distributed so New Zealand's arable industry could benefit from knowing what was being done here, Mr Brawley said. It had already been peer reviewed by groups including Federated Farmers and the New Zealand Grain & Seed Trade Association.

The research highlighted a timely opportunity for New Zealand to grow its share of the world's arable markets, he sai

"The agricultural industry is facing the most opportunity it has since World War 2. Because of high population growth, poor harvests and food crops being diverted into biofuels, the world is facing global food shortages. Equally importantly, there is a growing middle class in countries such as China and India that can afford to pay for good quality food. If as a country, we are growing crops that the world needs, there is an opportunity for our country to be a price maker, not just a price taker.

"Mid Canterbury might be a small region in terms of population but the research and development being done in seed breeding and production is world class. We are well placed to export and have established distribution networks.

"With pressure on to make more land available for housing, we have the various Ashburton District councils of the past few decades to credit with preserving much of our productive land and keeping it for farming."

Mid Canterbury's fertile soils, good irrigation and ideal climate were attracting arable-related businesses to set up shop there.

Chris Mortlock, business development manager for Midlands Seeds, said recent competition for land with the dairy industry had seen some loss of area to arable use in Mid Canterbury but that had turned into a benefit for the industry.

"There are fewer arable farmers around but the ones who have stayed in it have become more specialized and invested in producing high value crops."

He said the contribution of Mid Canterbury both to crop seeds and animal feed meant a significant percentage of food on New Zealanders' plates every day came from this region.

"People may be surprised at how key Mid Canterbury is in feeding the world."

Summary of key findings:

· In the harvest of 2007/2008, Mid Canterbury provided 33% of the world's carrot seeds and 50% of the world's radish seeds

· Mid Canterbury grew 80% of New Zealand's vegetable seed exports which had an estimated value of $32million.

· Mid Canterbury produces 60% of New Zealand's ryegrass seed exports and 60% of New Zealand's clover seed exports.

· Mid Canterbury produces 60% of New Zealand's clover seeds for sowing in New Zealand.

· Mid Canterbury produces more than half the country's total amount of wheat (54%) and just under half the country's feed wheat (49.2%).

· Most popular crops were wheat (195,000tonnes) and barley (112,700 tonnes).

· Highest value crops were carrot seed ($50,000 per tonne) clover seed ($5000 per tonne), other forage seeds ($3000 per tonne) and ryegrass seed ($2000 per tonne).


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