The dairy boom that supercharged New Zealand's economy was fueled by debt, now that debt marks the industry out as one of our most vulnerable to financial shocks.

New Zealand's agricultural debt has soared by 340 per cent since Fonterra was formed in October 2001.

Since 1990 the agricultural industry has leveraged up by more than 1000 per cent.

As the sector looks out at an era of more subdued earnings, and as farm prices fall, concerns are growing.

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Agricultural debt - which stood at $63.4b at June 30 - accounts for 14 per cent of total bank lending.

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