Thursday, December 7, 2023

Seeds are earning us big money

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Small seeds have yielded big gains for New Zealand’s multi-billion dollar agri-food sector.
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The quiet achieving seed sector pumped almost $800 million into the NZ economy last year with pasture and vegetable seeds putting food on the table in more ways than one.

A new economic impact report shows NZ’s world class seed production is one of the country’s smallest primary industries but with a modest footprint it contributes much more to NZ’s bottom line than many realise, NZ Grain and Seed Trade Association general manager Thomas Chin said.

Business and Economic Research (BERL) reports the total output value of seeds grown in 2018 was $798m, adding $329m to NZ’s GDP.

That includes 83,000 tonnes of certified seed crops harvested off 37,000 hectares of land, mostly in Canterbury.

Ryegrass, fescue and clover pasture species seeds and carrot, radish and beet vegetable seeds remain NZ’s largest seed crops by value.  

But Chin said wheat and barley cereals, forage brassicas and forage legumes also remain important.

“These seeds are produced for both domestic farmers and international markets.”

In 2018 NZ seed production supported 4320 full time jobs ranging from seed breeding, research, multiplication, marketing, processing and distribution to ancillary services such as seed testing and brokering.

“The report highlights the vital importance of the seed sector to NZ’s economy,” Chin said.

“As well as premium quality offshore sales to Europe, Asia and Australia worth $214m in 2018, seeds grown, harvested and sold in NZ to NZ producers literally feed the country’s milk, red meat and fibre sectors that together earn $7.1 billion GDP.”

Other downstream users of NZ grown seeds are arable, horticulture and market garden growers who provide crops for human consumption, including wheat, barley, maize, oats and fresh veges used by local millers, bakers, beverage producers, food processors and supermarkets.

“The seed sector is small but powerful in terms of economic benefit to NZ, especially in heartland regions such as Canterbury, Southland, Manawatu and Wairarapa, Chin said. 

Fact box

BERL’S numbers: NZ seed industry 2018 

Production area 37,000hectares

Production volume 85,000tonnes

Exports $214 million

Total output value $798 million

Contribution to GDP $329 million

Employment (FTEs) 4320

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