New Zealand produces 70% of its cereal requirements and imports the rest. Overall, the production of grains and seed contributed around $380 million to New Zealand's economy in 2002. This equated to about 3% of the total agricultural output.
While arable crops are mostly sold locally, herbage and vegetable seeds are exported (valued at $78 million in 2002).
Cereal-based baking produced from local and imported wheat was worth $130 million in 2002.
Before 1987 the wheat industry was controlled by the Wheat Board, a government marketing authority. Following deregulation, flour mills could buy grain directly from growers, price controls were abolished and import restrictions were liberalised.
Most barley grown in New Zealand is used for malting or making stock feed. Barley exports fluctuate, depending on international prices. Barley marketing has never been regulated in New Zealand, and growers sell directly to domestic and export seed or malting companies.
Oats are grown mainly for human and stock food in domestic markets and are sold to processors either directly or via seed companies.
Fresh garden peas are contracted directly by processors, such as Wattie’s, which have strict quality guidelines. Field peas, which dry in the pod, are used locally for stock food and exported, depending on international supply and demand.
Maize harvested in full leaf, but before it is mature, is used as silage. When matured, the grain is harvested and sold, mainly for animal feed, especially to dairy farmers, or as seed.
The arable processing industry has three main sectors:
- flour production from imported and local wheat
- malt production from local barley
- animal feed manufactured from local and imported feed grains.
There are also companies that specialise in the cleaning, packing and marketing of pasture and vegetable seeds.
There are no collective marketing agencies for the arable industry in New Zealand. Growers must deal with a range of companies, from small firms to large multinational organisations.
Large grain processors in New Zealand include Goodman Fielder and Weston Milling. These companies operate flour mills and animal feed processing companies, and use most of the grain produced in New Zealand.
Animal feed manufacture, particularly for the poultry and pork industries, uses much of the wheat crop. Most of the wheat milled for flour now comes from Australia.
United Wheatgrowers NZ is a committee of 27 wheat growers, aligned with Federated Farmers of New Zealand. It administers a disaster relief insurance scheme funded through a compulsory levy on all grain sold. It also informs wheat growers about available grain contracts.
The New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association promotes the development of new varieties, assists with marketing, processing and distribution of seeds and grains, and provides advice and support to the industry. Membership ranges from sole traders to large corporations.
The milling and baking industries also have their own associations.
Acknowledgements to Matthew Cromey, Christine McDonald and Suvi Viljanen-Rollinson