New Caledonia – New Zealand’s Top Corn Export Market
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Corn is a versatile crop that can be grown in most parts of New Zealand other than the coldest parts of the South Island, but it is most prevalent and profitable in flat to rolling areas in the North Island. It may not provide the highest return per hectare, but it is relatively easy to grow and offers other options, such as leasing to contract growers. Grain Corn competes with other horticulture, dairying, and Corn silage in most North Island regions and warmer South Island regions. Less than 5 hectares may be unprofitable. Bigger tends to be better, with larger blocks giving better profits. Larger blocks have lower per hectare costs and other benefits of scale, so more land provide better results.
Companies all over New Zealand offer contracts, but it can be difficult to secure one if they already have enough supply from existing relationships. A contract is an agreement with a processor or wholesaler that they will purchase crop for a specific price as long as it meets conditions such as how much will be delivered, harvest date, and the quality of the crop. The contract is signed before the crop plant. The land is prepped in autumn by spraying out perennial weeds and applying fertilizer and lime. Soil testing in winter will identify if any additional nutrients will be needed before planting and during growth. Once the risk of frosts has passed in spring, the seed bed is prepared and planted. For the first 6-10 weeks the crop is carefully monitored for insect and bird damage, or more weeds.
Harvesting occurs between March and June when the grain is between 22% and 24% moisture. The actual data depends on when the crop was planted, which hybrid was planted, and the growing conditions. After the crop has been harvested nutrients and organic matter are replaced in the soil and a winter cover crop is planted. The Foundation for Arable Research Incorporated (FAR) collects an Arable Commodity Levy of $1 for every 10,000 seeds purchased. The levy is added to the price when the farmer buys seed, so there is no need to complete a levy return.
Better hybrid genetics are reducing the harvest time and lifting the yield per hectare by around 180kg each year. In warmer regions, a shorter time to harvest could allow the landowner to grow a different crop or pasture over winter. Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) Corn survey shows that yield ranged from 10 tons to 15 tons of dry grain per hectare in 2018 and 2019. Dry grain has been dried to 14% moisture after being harvested at 22-24% moisture. The average yield was 10.9 tons per hectare.
Corn Market in New Zealand
Corn grain becomes stock feed, including poultry, pig, calf, and dairy meal. Some are sold directly into the dairy industry or used for starch or human food, such as Corn chips and breakfast cereal. The livestock feed sector consumes about 60% of Corn production in New Zealand. Food and industrial processors consume the remaining 40%. A small amount is exported, mainly to New Caledonia, with some going to other Pacific Islands and Australia. New Zealand imports Corn grain from up to 8 different countries each year. New Zealand imported Corn worth NZD86.8 million in 2019.
The Corn grain price varies between seasons and districts. In 2019 most Corn crops were contracted at $375 – $380 per ton. Grower’s income is an estimated $375 per ton and 11.1 tons per hectare, and revenue per hectare is $4,163. If costs are $3,375 per hectare, the profit to the grower is just under $800 per hectare.
Other sources: TUPU
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