- ANZSIC codes
annual export earnings (updated Dec annually)
in core production are managers
of arable farming activity estimated to be in Canterbury
What is the arable sector?
The arable sector includes grain and seed production, grain storage and wholesaling, and downstream industries like flour milling, bread, bakery, cake and beer making.
How the arable sector views the value chain doesn't align neatly with our ANZSIC06-based framework, and there can be important contributions from activities that are hard to identify under our framework. Difficult to measure areas have been estimated - for example the New Zealand Grain and Seed Association estimated the number of people working in research. MPI and NZIER's report 'The food and fibre workforce: Data on its size and composition' from June 2022 goes into this in more depth.
This information expands on and interprets our data visualisation for all sectors, which can be filtered by sector and parts of it, like processing or production.
How many work in the arable sector?
Designation workforce counts won't necessarily sum to the total - some people may work in more than one designation. The total indicates the overall unique average number of people who work in the sector.
Seasonal change: Workforce over a year
Our data visualisations show average workforce counts across a year for the arable sector:
Roles and skill levels
MPI and NZIER's report 'The food and fibre workforce: Data on its size and composition' from June 2022 sets out the proportion of managers, semi-autonomous and managed staff in the arable sector.
Federated Farmers, Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) and Beef + Lamb New Zealand estimate around 2,400 to 2,800 arable farms. Canterbury is by far the biggest region for arable farming.
Owner-operators make up around half arable farming roles. Farms usually also have at least one semi-autonomous permanent worker and managed part-year workers.
Feed mills supply feed for other sectors like poultry, pig and dairy, producing over a million tonnes a year.
Their companies are usually smaller than other corporate entities but follow a standard corporate structure, with a large number of managed workers and a small numbers of managers and semi-autonomous workers.
In its 'Arable production 2018 economic impact assessment' BERL estimates the seed market is worth about $300 million. Most seeds are exported, mainly to the United States, where they distribute seeds around the world, including back to New Zealand.
The industry estimates there are around 50 companies in seed marketing with an average of 10 employees.
Grain trading and contracting
Most grain trading is within New Zealand, with a small amount for export. The New Zealand Grain & Seed Trade Association estimates there are 8 companies with an average 5 employees.
Processing, storage and distribution
Processing, storage and distribution is vital to the arable sector, with the infrastructure available influencing the sector's size in each region.
The New Zealand Grain & Seed Trade Association estimates around 40 companies in this part of the industry, averaging 10 employees.
Arable support services
Support services are the on- and off-farm inputs the industry needs to function, like spraying, labs, specialist packaging and machinery.
The New Zealand Grain & Seed Trade Association estimates around 40 companies in arable sector support services, averaging 15 employees.
A high proportion of semi-autonomous jobs in arable support services may reflect many specialist roles.
Research and development
Research and development includes research into and developing new varieties of arable crops.
The New Zealand Grain & Seed Trade Association estimates there are about 10 companies, averaging 20 employees each.
Seed production advice and care
Off-farm businesses provide farmers with crop care, development and protection services, particularly when another entity has contracted a farmer to grow a crop.
The New Zealand Grain & Seed Trade Association estimates around 40 companies averaging 5 employees.