Saturday, March 2, 2024

Trio of challenges take toll on NZ seed exports

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Weather, labour, shipping challenges impacted New Zealand seed exports in 2022.
Warm summer conditions in the South Island have been great for the 2023 harvest.
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New Zealand seed exports (kaweake kākano) were down in 2022, with the industry expressing ongoing concern over increasing regulation.

The total value of NZ seed exports in 2022 totalled $221 million, 9% down on the previous year, according to the latest data issued by Stats NZ.

NZ exported seeds to more than 70 countries in 2022 with the top five export markets by value being the Netherlands, Australia, the United States, China and Germany, which together account for about 60% of total export sales.

Pasture seeds including ryegrass and clover seed; vegetable seeds, predominately carrot, radish and beet seed; and cereal and oil seeds were the top export categories, earning $115m, $92m and $15m respectively in 2022.

More than 80% of NZ’s seed production is in the Canterbury region, centred on the Ashburton district and encompassing more than 44,000ha of certified crop.

NZ Grain and Seed Trade Association (NZGSTA) general manager Thomas Chin said global customers select NZ because of its high integrity, aided by a very good certification system which delivers a quality, consistent and unique product that they can trust. 

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

“The government’s imminent policies and additional regulations remain a serious concern for the industry going forward, with industry groups continuing the call to slow down the rollout,” Chin said.

Meanwhile the South Island is well into the 2023 harvest, with summer conditions currently proving favourable.

Growers and contractors in the Canterbury and Southland regions are reporting that the hot and dry summer months have set up harvest and yields nicely, with barley and oilseed harvests completed for much of both regions while wheat harvests are underway from this week.

The latest NZX Grain and Feed Insight reports out of both regions suggest that, despite the rain during planting, there is little damage to the crop. Some fields may have experienced slight water damage, but crops are expected to be of high quality with high yields.

This follows concerns about possible water damage earlier in the season.

Merchants and mills are pleased with the high quality grains arriving from growers so far, with volume competition for feed coming from Australia.

Australia has recorded another record year of grain production, but severe weather conditions have left much of the harvested crop downgraded. Australian grain futures and spot prices have  fallen over recent months. 

While imported prices will remain competitive in NZ, the availability of high quality grain for import will be limited.

As the 2023 harvest progresses and the market gets a line on quality and quantity there will be more clarity on spot and contract prices. For now, though, prices remain relatively stagnant. 

Weather forecasts for the South Island look promising for the harvest over the coming couple of weeks, and while the nation worries about potential drought in the Southland region, farmers, contractors, and distributors are happy with the dry weather for the meantime. 

The maize harvest is delayed as conditions earlier in the season impact growth. The weather has been favourable down south for crops, but the North Island has had a tougher season. 

Waikato through Manawatū has had a very wet season to date, with rain throughout spring and into summer, delaying maize planting by weeks – in some cases by a month – damaging emergence and creating water damage in more established crops. 

The extent of the weather impact on quality and yield is still unknown, and so its impact on price. 

Contract maize grain and silage prices are already sitting at higher prices compared to last year, with the NZX Waikato average sitting at $705/t, up $255/t on the same time last year. 

Manawatū is reporting a much lower average of $664/t, albeit with a greater range, including prices as high as $765/t.

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