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Farming Changes Shown By Statistics

The changing face of New Zealand agriculture was shown in the final 1999 Agricultural Production Statistics, published by Statistics NZ today, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said.

Mr Sutton, joined by Deputy Government Statistician Ian Ewing and Agriculture and Forestry Ministry director-general Bruce Ross, launched the statistics' publication in Wellington this evening.

The statistics show that farming is becoming increasingly diverse, with farmers growing a range of products to minimise risk.

Dairying is sweeping the country, with all regions but one reporting a large increase in the number of dairy herds.

The largest number of dairy cattle can be found in the Waikato regions, with just over 1.5 million cattle, just under 35 per cent of the national herd.

Sheep numbers have declined dramatically. In 1980, there were 22 sheep for every person in New Zealand. Now, there are only 12 sheep for each person.

Canterbury has the highest count of sheep, with more than 9.2 million sheep. That's just over 20 per cent of the national flock.

Beef cattle numbers have remained relatively stable. Manawatu-Wanganui has the highest count of beef cattle, with just over 750,000, about 16 per cent of the national herd.

Pig numbers have dropped about 100,000 during the past 10 years, down to 368,887.

Goat numbers have plummeted, from 1.2 million in 1989 to just 186,390 last year.

Deer numbers are up, from 780,066 in 1989 to 1.67 million last year.

Mr Sutton said the agricultural production statistics were essential to Government decisionmakers so that they knew what was happening in the country's largest export earning sector.

Sheep, beef and dairy are the most common forms of livestock farming. The following is a regional breakdown of changes in farming types in those animals.

Northland: Sheep numbers have continued to decline steadily during the past decade to 584,000 sheep, less than half the what they were in 1990. Dairy herd numbers are up to 387,000 cattle, up from 369,000 in 1990. At the beginning of the decade beef cattle numbers stood at 592,000, rose to a peak of 610,000 in 1991 and have declined to a low of 544,000 in 1999.

Auckland: Sheep, dairy and beef cattle numbers have all shown a steady and significant decline in numbers. The number of dairy cattle have gone down from 230,000 in 1990 to 132,000 in 1999. Sheep numbers have declined dramatically, from 1.04 million in 1990 to just 479,000 last year. Beef cattle numbers have declined from 290,000 in 1990 to 179,000 in 1999.

Waikato: Waikato still has the highest number of dairy cows in the country. In the past decade sheep and beef cattle numbers have declined while dairy cattle numbers have shown a moderate increase. Dairy cattle reached a high of 1,503,000 in 1999 ? up from 1,277,000 in 1990. Beef cattle numbers have dropped 758,000 in 1990 to 679,000 in 1999. Sheep numbers have declined from 4,471,000 in 1990 to 2,866,000 in 1999.

Bay of Plenty: Dairy cattle numbers have remained relatively constant this decade. In 1990 there were 338,000 dairy cattle and in 1999 there were 346,000. Beef cattle numbers have steadily declined from 175,000 in 1990 to 119,000 in 1999. The sheep population has dropped by more than half ? from 1,097,000 in 1990 to 496,000 in 1999.

Gisborne: Though numbers are low in comparison with other regions, there has been a significant rise in the number of dairy cattle in the Gisborne region. From 1990, when there were 3800, there are now 5800. Sheep numbers have declined though not to the same extent as in other regions. In 1990 there were 2,283,000 sheep. By 1999 the population had dropped to 1,608,000. Beef cattle numbers have dropped, from 326,000 in 1990 to 281,000 in 1999.

Hawkes Bay: The number of dairy cattle in the Hawkes Bay has more than trebled this decade - up from 14,000 in 1990 to 45,000. The sheep population still dominates at 4,502,000 in 1999 though there has been a decline since 1990 when numbers stood at 4,995,000. Beef cattle numbers have steadily increased from 427,000 in 1990 to 542,000 in 1999.

Taranaki: There has been a significant drop in sheep numbers, from 1,375,000 in 1990 to 817,000 in 1999. There has been a small to moderate rise in the number of dairy cattle ? from 563,000 in 1990 to 608,000 in 1999. Beef cattle numbers have declined ? from 174,000 in 1990 to 123,000 in 1999.

Manawatu-Wanganui: There has been a drop in sheep numbers ? from 8,692,000 in 1990 to 6,956,000 in 1999. Dairy cattle numbers have steadily risen ? from 255,000 in 1990 to 329,000 in 1999. Beef cattle numbers rose from 728,000 in 1990 to 752,000 in 1999.

Wellington: Dairy cattle numbers have increased by a third in the past decade ? from 63,000 in 1990 to 97,000 in 1999. Sheep numbers have steadily declined though the drop has been small in comparison to some other regions in the country. In 1990 there were 2,596,000 sheep dropping to 2,271,000 in 1999. Beef cattle numbers went from 165,000 in 1990 to 182,000 last year.

Tasman: There has been a significant increase in dairy cattle numbers ? up from 47,000 in 1993 to 74,000 in 1999. Beef cattle numbers have remained fairly constant over the decade, currently at 57,000. Sheep numbers have declined from 471,000 in 1993 to 434,000 in 1999.

Nelson: In comparison with the rest of the country, this region has relatively few livestock. However it follows the national trend of declining sheep numbers, down to 13,000. Beef cattle numbers have also declined ? from 2,700 to 1,800.

Marlborough: Dairy cattle numbers have almost doubled from 18,000 in 1993 to 33,000 in 1999. There has been a significant increase in beef cattle ? up from 64,000 in 1993 to 85,000 in 1999. Sheep numbers have declined slightly ? from 997,000 in 1993 to 944,000 in 1999.

West Coast: Dairy cattle numbers have almost doubled this decade while sheep numbers have dropped by two-thirds. In 1990 there were 65,000 dairy cattle, rising to 121,000 last year. Correspondingly, sheep numbers dropped from 314,000 in 1990 to 104,000 in 1999. Beef cattle numbers declined from 73,000 in 1990 to 52,000 in 1999.

Canterbury: This region shows a big increase in dairy and beef cattle and a small decline in sheep numbers. Between 1990 and 1999 the trend in dairy cattle numbers was consistently upwards ? more than doubling from 113,000 to 275,000. The trend was the same in beef cattle ? up from 320,000 to 516,000. Sheep numbers declined steadily from 10,422,000 to 9,218,000 in 1999.

Otago: Otago saw a major increase in dairying ? a near three-fold increase in dairy cattle ? from 44,000 in 1990 to 125,000 in 1999. Beef cattle numbers rose significantly in the same period ? from 236,000 to 292,000. Sheep numbers dropped slightly from 8,310,000 to 7,569,000.

Southland: In this decade Southland has grown from a relatively minor dairying region to a significant one. The number of dairy cattle has grown strongly - from 38,000 in 1990 to 233,000 dairy cows in 1999. There has been a significant increase in beef cattle numbers ? up from 187,000 in 1990 to 223,000 in 1999. Sheep numbers have declined from 8,932,000 in 1990 to 6,738,000 in 1999.

For more information, contact: Cathie Bell, press secretary 025 998467

Director General Bruce Ross, Deputy Statistician Ian Ewing, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me here today.

These agricultural statistics are a subject dear to my heart.

While in Opposition, I protested the then-National Government's decision to stop the agricultural production statistics. Unfortunately, the then-minister had a scant regard for things agricultural and took no notice.

The effect of two years' drought on the economy and its sneaking up on the Nats and catching them by surprise changed that view.

The New Zealand Government, as a member of many international organisations, has an obligation to provide accurate and relevant statistics on its economy ? and a huge part of that is agriculture.

Last year, farming and horticulture were among this country's biggest industries, providing 35 per cent of New Zealand's export earnings. The sector earned 47 per cent of New Zealand's merchandise trade earnings.

It seems crazy to me that any Government could consider not having official statistics on such an important part of the economy.

What sort of worse-than-Third World country doesn't keep official statistics on its vital industries?

My immediate predecessor, John Luxton, said last year when announcing the statistics would be measured again after all that it was critical to have up-to-date and accurate statistics.

He highlighted the change in farming types throughout the country ?such as the move to dairying in the South Island ? and the need for the meat industry to know livestock numbers in order to plan for future capacity at processing plants.

And the Government needed that information as well for both domestic forecasting work and for international credibility.

I restrained myself then, but now I can say "I told you so!"

As minister of agriculture in the Labour-Alliance Coalition Government, we recognise the importance of tracking where we have been and where we are going in the future.

A reliable agricultural statistical base is critical to many areas of policy advice carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, as well as other Government departments.

I welcome these statistics and commend them to you all. Thank you to Statistics NZ for providing them, thank you to MAF for hosting this function.

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