Monday, February 26, 2024

‘Great’ seed export year under the belt

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Value of seed exports was 27% up on previous year.
A study of Western Australian arable farms showed that more than $300 million of grain and seed was likely left in paddocks in 2021 from machine losses.
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New Zealand seed exports are growing in value, with the latest statistics reflecting a pleasing year.

NZ Grain and Seed Trade Association general manager Thomas Chin said the industry is “delighted with the great seed export year”.

The total value of NZ seed exports for 2023 totalled $281 million, up 27% on the previous year, according to data from Stats NZ.

NZ seeds were exported to more than 60 countries last year, with the top five export markets by value being the Netherlands, Australia, the United States, China and Germany, which together accounted for 60% of total export sales.

Pasture seeds including ryegrass and clover seed, vegetable seeds – mainly  carrot, radish and beet seed – and cereal and oil seeds were the top export categories, earning $259.5m, $3.1m and $18.8m respectively in 2023.

More than 80% of NZ’s seed production is in the Canterbury region, centred in and around the Ashburton district and encompassing more than 40,000 hectares of certified crop.

“Our global customers select NZ as they know we have high integrity aided by a very good certification system, which delivers a quality, consistent and unique product that they can trust,” Chin said.

“The export turnover achieved emphasises the resilience of the industry, amid a year that has been full of weather challenges, increasing production costs and inconsistent shipping reliability.” 

Export revenue is forecast to increase 7% to $290m in the year to June 30 2024,driven by increased prices for vegetable seed and increased volumes of clover seed.

With the new National, ACT and NZ First Coalition Government’s focus on an export-led recovery, Chin said, the industry is looking forward to seeing those initiatives come through “so the sector can get on and generate the revenue and the dividend that helps keep people in jobs, especially within the regions”.

Of significant interest to the seed sector is the government’s work programme to deliver on its election promise to lift the effective ban on gene editing (GE) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and introduce a new biotech regulator. 

“These changes are expected to be beneficial to the plant breeding sector, as local researchers will be encouraged to take advantage of new advanced technologies that can significantly reduce the cost and development time of new varieties.”

Meanwhile members of the seed and plant breeding industry and Federated Farmers Arable have worked together to introduce a system to collect royalties on farm-saved seed.

As part of a voluntary declaration, farmers who save and replant Plant Variety Right (PVR) protected seeds, such as wheat and barley seeds, will pay an annual royalty based on usage to rights holders, starting from the 2024 production year.

Chin said in preparation for royalty collection, seed royalty rates, protected variety lists and a declaration form are expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.

The Plant Breeding and Research Association secretariat will manage the return of declarations from farmers using saved seed varieties and will establish a process to enable royalties to be calculated and distributed to rights holders.

The royalty collection system will commence with declarations to be filed before the last quarter of the year.

In Focus Podcast: Full Show | 2 February 

Bryan talks with Dr John Caradus, chief executive of Grasslanz, about the growing calls to revisit our laws around genetic modification and editing. The European Union recently passed a major upgrade to its laws and Caradus says we’re now the only nation in the world working under such a strict regime. 

Federated Farmers president Wayne Langford also discusses his plan to bring the various farming voices together as Team Ag. 

And, senior reporter Richard Rennie discusses some new research that could bring good news to mānuka hone producers and also takes a look at how Hawke’s Bay fruit growers are faring.

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