Sowing seed of excellence

New Zealand's world-beating seed-certification system is one of the reasons the country is producing most of the world's carrot and radish seeds.

Along with the certification system, climate, soil, irrigation and farmers' expertise were the things that attracted seed from other countries for multiplication, Federated Farmers grain and seed chairman Ian Mackenzie said.

''Our good seed-certification system means they can rely implicitly on the quality of our seed,'' he said.

Total seed exports last year rose 14% over 2012 levels. This showed arable farmers were doing their fair share for the economy, Mr Mackenzie said.

''What makes the $192 million contribution to the economy so good is that this contribution is heavily concentrated in the Mid and North Canterbury region, with almost all the production done between the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers.

''Canterbury has always been widely known as the grain bowl of New Zealand, but what is less known is that for some time the growers and merchants in the area have been building a reputation for high quality pasture seed and vegetable seed production.''

New Zealand was known for its production of ryegrass and fescue seeds, which was complementing the steadily growing business of vegetable seeds, Mr Mackenzie said.

Grass seed is exported to Europe, North and South America and Australia, while vegetable seed is shipped to Europe and Asia.

A voluntary system which plots the planting of seed crops requiring quarantine isolation to prevent cross-pollination was working well, he said.

''The system works well for everybody. There is mutual respect to date, with good buy-in from the companies and the growers,'' Mr Mackenzie said.

''It is the reason Mid Canterbury growers are reluctant to grow too much canola seed, as it could reduce their ability to grow the high grade vegetable seeds.''

He said while seed production had been good in the past two years, this year's yield was likely to be down, in terms of volume, as crops had been under stress at times from bad weather.

- Maureen Bishop 

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