Ferry costs affecting cereal production: Feds’ Hurst

Grain growers see more wheat-growing potential if they can lower costs to get across the Cook...
Grain growers see more wheat-growing potential if they can lower costs to get across the Cook Strait. Photo: David Hill
Navigating the costly Cook Strait passage will be key to Canterbury crop growers wanting to grow more wheat for the North Island market.

The latest survey by the Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) shows an estimated 835,900 tonnes of cereal grain — milling, malting and feed crops of wheat, barley and oats — was grown nationally in the 2022-23 season.

This is up 9% on the previous season and another 164,400 tonnes of maize grain was produced.

Federated Farmers vice-president Colin Hurst said high freight costs to ferry grain across the Cook Strait needed to be solved so more wheat could be grown domestically.

The trend over recent years was for farmers to grow 110,000 tonnes of milling wheat and about 320,000 tonnes of feed wheat, Mr Hurst said.

"I think there is a significant opportunity to grow more wheat. We grow enough for the South Island, but the opportunity to grow more in the South Island to send to the North Island is there. That’s what we really want to work on. We’ve just got to get it across the Cook Strait."

Growers wanted to feed New Zealanders with New Zealand-grown grains, he said.

A difficult growing season in Australia reinforced the opportunity for more domestic grain to be grown and sold, he said.

The quality of Australian wheat crops hit by hailstorms on top of dry conditions remains unknown until their harvest.

Mr Hurst said crop mixes would be similar this growing season to last season with the exception of more peas being grown this year.

The AIMI survey revealed unsold stocks of cereal grain had more than doubled. An estimated 32,900 tonnes of feed wheat had yet to be sold in October — up 15,000 tonnes on last year — and 53,500 tonnes of remaining feed barley is up by 29,800 tonnes.

Farm storage of sold grain is up 55% with both sold and unsold grain across the six crops up 67%.

The total area either sown or intended to be sown in cereals is estimated to be 94,300 hectares, down 3% on last season.



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