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Sheep Numbers Continue to Decline

There were 39.2 million sheep in New Zealand at 30 June 2002, the lowest recorded level since 1955, according to provisional results from Statistics New Zealand's 2002 Agricultural Production Census. There has been a steady decline in sheep numbers since 1982, when the national flock peaked at 70.3 million sheep.

Provisional results also show a decrease in beef cattle numbers, down 11 percent from 5.0 million in 1994 to 4.5 million in 2002. However, dairy cattle numbers increased 39 percent, from 3.8 million in 1994 to 5.3 million in June 2002, continuing an increasing trend since 1991.

The 2002 Agricultural Production Census, the first census since 1994, covered livestock, cropping, horticulture and forestry activities. It is the beginning of an ongoing programme of censuses and surveys of agriculture being undertaken by Statistics New Zealand in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Figures released today also confirm the rapid growth of wine grape growing. Between 2000 and 2002, the area planted in wine grapes increased by 37 percent from 12,700 to 17,400 hectares.

More land is now being utilised for growing wine grapes than for any other type of fruit, including kiwifruit (12,200 hectares) and apples (11,600 hectares). The census also shows that the area planted in avocados has more than doubled to 3,100 hectares between 30 June 1994 and 30 June 2002.

During the year ended 30 June 2002, 51,100 hectares of wheat were sown, up 14 percent on the 1994 figure. The census also shows 76,000 hectares were sown in barley, a 1 percent decrease since 1994.

Government Statistician Brian Pink thanked all those respondents who helped make this census a success. "The results will enable analysts, planners and policy-makers to measure the changes that have occurred in agriculture since the last census was taken in 1994," said Mr Pink.

Final results from the 2002 Agricultural Production Census will be released on 28 May 2003.

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