NZ Farmers Face Global Wheat Shortage

Arable farmers here in New Zealand have considered planting more milling wheat this autumn to help combat global shortages.

Ukraine is a major global producer of wheat - but following Russia's invasion, the Ukraine government banned the export of wheat to preserve its food stocks. This has resulted in supply fears causing global wheat prices to rise sharply.

Federated Farmers arable chair Colin Hurst said New Zealand grew about 100,000 tonnes of milling wheat and about 250,000 tonnes of feed wheat for stock.

"So, we're just looking into whether we could have a bit of a push to increase the area of milling wheat, we've started some initial talks with the government about this.

"It's just about understanding this worldwide food security crisis and whether there's an opportunity for New Zealand to assist with growing more grain."

Hurst said growers would be able to switch from growing feed grains to milling wheat.

"The problem with switching is we don't want to create shortages on the other side, but the preference is to feed people rather than the livestock sector - these are things we need to work out."

About 70 percent of the wheat used in flour production in New Zealand is imported, mostly from Australia. That was due to freight costs, Hurst said.

"Basically, we grow 100 percent of the milling wheat grown for the South Island and the main market is in North Island.

"So, we need to work on the infrastructure to transport it up there in an efficient manner because It's cheaper to bring wheat from Australia to Auckland as opposed to Canterbury to Auckland, that's the problem."

Adding to supply issues, heavy rain in February ruined Edmonds crops around the country, leading the flour company to source stock from overseas and arable farmers to describe it as the season from hell.

Edmonds said the weather meant yields in the South Island had been significantly impacted.

"With the reduced supply available in market we haven't been able to source enough New Zealand grown wheat for our Edmonds flour," a company spokesperson said.

"In order to ensure Kiwis have access to an ongoing supply of high quality flour, we have had to urgently source wheat from Australia, which will continue to be milled and packed in New Zealand."

Edmonds packaging states the company only uses New Zealand wheat so it will be updated to reflect the change.

First published on RNZ, republished with permsission.