Levels of confidence are returning to New Zealand's maize sector, with a healthy rise in average yields and prices remaining firm at around $400/tonne.
Reuben Carter, Federated Farmers arable industry group vice-chairman (maize/forage), said most growers enjoyed excellent growing weather and harvest conditions in 2018 and this is reflected in the latest AIMI survey.
Data from 77 survey farms, scaled up for a national picture, show an average maize grain yield of 12.8 t/ha, compared to 10 t/ha in 2017, and 20.6t maize silage dry matter/ha (18.5t in 2017).
The AIMI survey report noted some growers had said it was the best season they'd experienced.
"Coming out of a really dry season the year before (2016/17), it did feel like this year was one out of the box," Carter said. "It was off to a slow start, with quite a wet October/November. But then we had some great heat and rain and it set us up for fantastic growing and an early harvest."
The estimated total maize grain tonnage of 268,500 (included unharvested grain) was 53 per cent up on the 2017 season because of increased harvest hectares (20 per cent up) and increased yield (27 per cent up).
For maize silage, harvest tonnes were up 12 per cent on 2017, with almost no change in harvested hectares and an 11 per cent higher yield. Another indicator of the settled weather at harvest time in most districts was that 95 per cent of the maize grain crop was in by the time of the survey (June 1) when at the same time last year only 52 per cent of the harvest was completed.
"That early finish is good news for growers and contractors," Carter said.
The evidence of good relationships between farmers and contractors in managing wet paddocks during the harvest was pleasing, he said. It minimised damage and mud spread around public roads. "It was a good effort by all parties."
The AIMI survey showed about 85 per cent of the maize grain crop was sold by June 1, leaving 39,000 tonnes unsold. For comparison, 18,600t was unsold at this time last year, and 44,900 and 34,600 in the two previous years. "There is still a bit of free grain floating around but the prices have been creeping up a bit every week. Farmers who want to secure supply going forward need to get in touch with their grower or merchant."
Just on 60 per cent of the maize silage harvest had been sold or used by June 1, leaving 349,000 tonnes DM unused/unsold (457,000t — 2017, 365,000 — 2016).
Survey responses show spring sowing intentions for maize grain are very similar to 2017, and for maize silage they are up 5 per cent.
Carter reminded farmers and contactors to remember good biosecurity processes to restrict the movement of contaminated harvesting equipment. "This is particularly important in the Waikato to reduce the spread of velvetleaf around the region."