Energy use in New Zealand agricultural production

Chudleigh, P. D.
Greer, Glen
Discussion Paper
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This paper reports estimates of the energy used in New Zealand agricultural production up to the farm gate during the decade 1972-1981. As well as a description of total energy usage, the paper shows how the most important energy intensive inputs, fuel and fertiliser, have varied in use over the period. Analysis of aggregate fuel use data suggests that New Zealand farmers have not decreased fuel use over the period in response to increasing real fuel prices. The most likely explanation for this lies in the facts that fuel costs still constitute only a minor part of total farm costs; and fuel is not easily substituted for by other inputs. On the other hand, fertiliser costs are responsible for a substantial proportion of total farm costs. Even so, fertiliser price is not the most important factor influencing fertiliser input levels. Farm Income appears the most important single factor influencing the varying level of fertiliser inputs from year to year. Higher energy prices on the farm have been only one factor influencing New Zealand aggregate agricultural output over the past decade. The implications of higher energy prices for agriculture emanate from far wider sources than just farm production technologies and direct effects on farm production economies. The success of conservation measures on changes in output or input mixes on New Zealand farms stemming from the higher energy prices have so far been mainly hypothetical or have not surfaced in available data. The lack of published data at the subsectoral level does not allow meaningful monitoring of changes that-may be taking place. Also, disaggregation of data on energy use is important if interest is in estimating future energy inputs and how these may be affected by various agricultural policies.
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