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High Value Harvest Underway

1 February 2013

High Value Harvest Underway

New Zealand’s annual seed harvest is about to hit overdrive, and if last year’s official trade figures are any indication, there’s a surprising amount of money riding on the next few weeks.

Vegetable and forage seed exports were worth NZ$168million for the year ended 31 December 2012, up from NZ$138million the previous year, reports Statistics New Zealand.

Seed industry leaders have welcomed the result, especially considering the exchange rate, and are now eyeing up ways to grow the trade further while maintaining the rigorous standards that position New Zealand at the top end of a large, competitive global market.

“New Zealand enjoys a world-class reputation for high quality seed production, and these figures clearly demonstrate the economic benefit of that,” says Thomas Chin, general manager of the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association.

More than 41,000 tonnes of seed is exported each year, with radish, carrots, ryegrass and white and red clover among the most important crops.

Chin says on a kilo for kilo basis, few other sectors can match the value-add or efficiency associated with seed multiplication for re-export.

The industry’s key export markets by value are to the European Union, especially the Netherlands, Australia and Japan. The Netherlands takes most of our carrots, radishes and other vegetable seeds, while ryegrass is the most important crop for Australia.

With the China Free Trade Agreement now fully bedded in and the impending conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations he foresees ‘very interesting’ opportunities for the industry.

“Export growth could be boosted from the vast Chinese market demand for specialist vegetable seed once New Zealand officials can re-engage with their agriculture and quarantine counterparts and help regain an important trade for leafy brassica such as bok choy, choi sum and Chinese cabbage.”

This market was worth NZ$4.5 million when the Chinese shut it down in 2011, and seed industry estimates forecast a potential value of NZ$20 million in five years if it could be resumed.

Chin says trade to China is currently impeded by strict pest risk testing requirements and alongside the Ministry of Primary Industry the seed industry is developing a rigorous quality assurance regime to help minimise risk.

Meantime he and everyone else involved in the industry are keeping a watchful eye on the weather: “At this stage prospects for most crops look good to above average, so we’re hoping for a successful harvest.”

Annually, the New Zealand seed industry produces around 115,000 tonnes of crops on 30,000 hectares. Total sales are estimated to be worth $450million. Around 3,200 New Zealanders are employed in the industry and $20 million is spent on R&D every year.

ENDS

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