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Final Data from the Agricultural Census Confirms Thriving Milk and Wine Production

The latest regional statistics from the 2002 Agricultural Production Census describe recent changes in our agricultural and horticultural landscape.

The census confirmed the growth and importance of dairy farming and the drop in New Zealand's total sheep and beef populations. This release also confirms the provisional figures that areas planted in avocados and wine grapes had increased significantly. On the other hand, pipfruit and pear orchards were down significantly.

One of the main points confirmed by the census was the improved profitability of dairying over other types of pastoral farming. This led to strong growth in the national dairy herd in the last eight years. The herd totalled 5.2 million head as at June 2002, up 1.3 million cattle on 1994. The biggest growth took place in the South Island where the total number of dairy cattle doubled to 1.3 million between 1994 and 2002. Canterbury, Otago and especially the Southland region contributed to this increase.

Farmers have benefited from improved milk solids production through the use of genetics and improved farm management techniques. Milk solids per cow have increased, on average, by two percent per annum since 1988. This increase in productivity, as well as expanded herd sizes and more dairy farms, was reflected in increased export volumes of dairy and casein products - eight percent per year, on average, since 1994. Prices received for dairy and casein exports, over the same time, averaged an increase of 1.6 percent per year.

Despite favourable export prices, New Zealand's sheep flock continued to fall but farmers are producing heavier lambs. The flock totalled 39.5 million in 2002, down by 20 percent from 49.5 million head in 1994. There was a 10 percent reduction in lambs tailed, with the number tailed in 2002 at 32.7 million lambs.

The number of beef cattle declined from 5.0 million to 4.5 million head in 2002. Eleven out of the sixteen regions showed a drop in the number of beef cattle from 1994 to 2002. The West Coast recorded the biggest percentage fall of 43 percent.

Deer numbers increased from 1.2 million to 1.6 million head since the last census in 1994. The greatest change was the growth in South Island deer numbers. The deer numbers in 1994 were spread evenly between the North and South Island, whereas the 2002 census results showed that the split was 37:63 in favour of the South Island.

The census results confirmed the extensive plantings of wine grapes since 1994. The area under wine grapes increased from 7,200 hectares to 17,400 hectares in 2002. Substantial increases in wine grapes were recorded for Nelson, Marlborough, Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Auckland, but the biggest proportional jump took place in Central Otago. The area under grapes in Central Otago totalled 1,100 hectares in 2002 - up a staggering 1,000 hectares.

Avocado plantings showed big increases in the Northland, Auckland and Bay of Plenty regions. Over the eight-year period to 1994, avocados planted in Northland increased by a factor of three while in the Bay of Plenty plantings doubled. Total area in avocados was 3,100 hectares as at June 2002.

Cherries appeared to be a growth crop in Otago and showed a 250 percent increase in land planted. The area in cherries totalled 600 hectares as at 30 June 2002.

Olives have become an increasingly common crop with groves giving a typically Mediterranean appearance to many regions in New Zealand, but particularly in Cantebury. The census showed that there were some 2,600 hectares of olive groves planted throughout New Zealand.

The area harvested in onions grew by 10 percent from 1994 to 5,400 hectares in 2002. Sizeable increases in areas harvested were recorded in the regions of Manawatu-Wanganui and Canterbury. The area harvested in potatoes increased by 12 percent from 1994 to 2002 to 10,600 hectares. The areas for squash totalled 6,600 hectares in 2002, down from 7,500 hectares.

The census was a joint undertaking by Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).

More information from the 2002 Agricultural Production Survey will be released in June. This will include information on farm counts, farm types, livestock numbers and also new information on Maori businesses, irrigation, organic land and grazing of animals for rent.

This census, which will be carried out every five years, will be followed up this year with a survey of 40,000 randomly selected farmers, horticulturists and foresters. This will update farming data and continue the monitoring of the sectors which produce two-thirds of New Zealand's merchandise export earnings.

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