The Canterbury Plant, Silver Fern Farms’ meat works in
A complex mix of factors has contributed to the decline: the removal of farm subsidies in the mid 1980s, a shift in consumer demand away from lamb & mutton as well as the complementary product, wool, high interest rates and an appreciating Kiwi dollar. Between 1990 and 2005, sheep, cattle, and wool output dropped by an average of over 0.5 percent per year, while dairy output expanded by an average 5.3 percent per average.
Sheep numbers in New Zealand have fallen 45 percent over the past 25 years, from a record 70 million in 1982 to 38.5 million in 2007.
In Canterbury, the province that acts as the hinterland for livestock supplies to the Belfast plant, there has been a pronounced shift from sheep & cattle farming to dairying in the past decade or so reflecting the relative profitability of the respective farming enterprises.
Strong international demand for dairy products, reflected in escalating export prices in the last few years, and the availability of irrigated pasture in
Higher land prices have exacerbated the problems of
Sheep numbers in
The area planted in wine grapes in
The influx of dairying into
Meantime, the meat processing industry continues to downsize, something that many
This may be small comfort to many of the workers laid off at