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Removing pesticide products could slash more than $11billion in value across New Zealand crops, says a new report from the NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER).
The report, which covers horticulture, field crops, pasture, vegetable production and forestry, shows that the economy would stand to lose commercial crops valued at between $7.5billion and $11.4billion, representing almost a third of their overall value across the board, in the event that crop protection products were removed entirely.
The NZ Association for Animal Health and Crop Protection (Agcarm), which represents a number of agrichemical brands, commissioned the report in late 2018 to illustrate the real economic impact through the value chain of what has become a $350million industry.
''The total economic value was actually quite surprising,'' Agcarm chief executive Mark Ross said.
''But it does show the importance of crop protection not just in producing safe food and protecting crops, but also in managing biosecurity incursions which damage our native species and crops.''
Crop protection products, or CPPs, are generally classified into four areas: herbicides, used primarily to control weeds; insecticides, for the control of insects in plants and crops; fungicides, which control and prevent fungal diseases in plants; and other products, which include surfactants and other products used in pest management.
The NZIER report says the biggest hit would be for vegetable growers, who, without the benefit of fungicides, insecticides or herbicides, would see $1.2billion shaved off their returns, representing 88% of annual production of $1.4billion.
The much larger pasture industry, valued at $17billion annually, could lose $3.4billion, while horticulture could lose $3.8billion of its $5billion returns.
The forestry industry could lose as much as $1.7billion of $5.5billion in annual receipts.
Federated Farmers arable chairwoman Karen Williams said the research showed the importance of having chemistry in the toolbox.
''Agrichemicals remain as a significant cost to farmers. We are, however, moving towards 'softer' solutions and learning a great deal about other ways of growing and developing strains that were resistant to disease.''
New Zealand's agrichemical sector is dominated by offshore multinationals, including Bayer CropScience, BASF, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont and Syngenta.
According to a report by the Ministry for the Environment, Nufarm represents the only significant ''formulator'' in New Zealand, though they also import product and formulate for other brand owners.
There is also a growing generic market, offering competing products through companies such as Orion Crop Protection, Ravensdown and AGPRO.
These companies either go direct to farmers or distribute via retailers such as PGG Wrightson, Farmlands or Ruralco.
Mr Ross said the industry was committed to the responsible use of crop protection products, from researching the best ways of managing damaging pests and diseases, through to safe use and disposal. ''This includes ensuring that any waste plastic containers are recycled and repurposed through the Agrecovery programme.
''Our industry focuses on stewardship and ensuring that there continues to be a variety of new products to offer pest-control solutions for growers and farmers. Agrichemicals that are more environmentally-friendly, more effective and more targeted allow farmers to better control target pests, while protecting human health and allowing beneficial flora and fauna to prosper.''
Ms Williams said the industry and government also needed to be realistic about the use of protection products.
''Food affordibility is one issue, including the implications of a loss of yield, which has immediate implications for food prices.''