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Economy, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing

sawn logs, orange roughy, New Zealand agriculture, hoki, Radiata pine

Agriculture has an importance for New Zealand’s exports that outweighs its share of the labor force and GDP. Most agricultural land is pastoral and well suited for the raising of livestock. The climate produces nearly continuous grass growth, and farm animals are generally kept outside all year. Sheep are raised for both meat and wool. Sheep numbers have declined from a peak of 70 million in 1982 to 44 million in 1999. The country also has about 10 million beef and dairy cattle, as well as deer, goats, and pigs.

New Zealand agriculture receives no direct subsidies from the state, as subsidies were discontinued in the mid-1980s as part of the government’s deregulation policies. Agricultural production therefore tends to follow world price trends. From the late 1970s to 2000, the relative output of mutton, lamb, and wool nearly halved (from 34 percent to 18 percent of agricultural output by value), while the relative output of dairy products—including butter, cheese, milk powders, and casein—nearly doubled (from 16 percent to 31 percent). Crops account for less than 5 percent of agricultural output. New Zealand now produces more than twice as much produce (fruits and vegetables) as it did in the 1970s. Principal crops are cereals (barley, wheat, maize, and oats), grapes, apples, pears, kiwi fruit, potatoes, and peas. The production of some specialized horticultural products such as wine, kiwi fruit, and squash has expanded considerably in recent years, and products like these are thought to represent an important future direction for New Zealand agriculture.

Timber production is almost exclusively from the 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) of plantation forests. Radiata pine, a species originally imported from California, is the most widely planted tree because of its rapid and straight growth in New Zealand. Tree plantations are generally clear-cut and then replanted, with each growth cycle lasting from 25 to 30 years. Major plantings in the 1960s and 1970s are expected to provide ample supply through at least 2010, while the allocation of more land for tree plantations is likely to continue to boost supply. Timber is used to produce sawn logs, wood pulp, paper, and building materials such as fiberboard.

Fish and other seafood are caught primarily in the country’s exclusive economic zone. This zone extends 200 nautical miles (370 km/230 mi) seaward from the main and offshore islands and is one of the largest such zones in the world. It covers an area that is about 15 times the total land area of New Zealand. The total commercial fisheries catch in 2000 was about 650,000 metric tons, with just under half this being exported. Deep-sea fishing involves the use of large trawlers to catch commercially valuable species, the most important of these being hoki, orange roughy, ling, squid, and hake. Also important for export income are aquacultural (farmed) salmon and mussels as well as harvested rock lobster (crayfish) and paua (abalone).

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