Seafood exports have hit record highs.
In the year to end April, exports totalled $1.75 billion, according to the Statistics Department.
This was a $38 million increase on the previous high recorded a month earlier in the year to the end of March.
The strong export growth for seafood has accelerated since the beginning of the year.
It is being fuelled by an exceptional year for squid but prices across frozen fin fish, rock lobster, orange roughy, fish meal and mussels are all up.
Big squid catches in the Southern Ocean around the Auckland Islands have coincided with a poor season in the Argentina and Falklands fisheries, which has pushed demand and prices up for New Zealand product.
Observer coverage in the squid fishery is almost at 100 percent and there have been no reports of sea lion captures. The pup count on the main breeding grounds of the Auckland Islands, which has fallen in recent years, is showing a healthy 10 percent increase.
The fact that a wide variety of species across a big range of markets are in demand and are attracting premium prices bodes well for the sector.
The wild fishery is well managed, stocks are sustainable and the aquaculture sector is expanding.
While the bulk of the catch is exported, the domestic market, which is currently receiving fresh and affordable hoki, is also important.
There is no cause for complacency and prices and catches will always fluctuate.
Even so, the seafood sector is performing well pretty much across the board and deserves recognition for that. The projected 2016 return is a 15 percent increase on the previous year.
Unfortunately, that is not the case across the primary sector and that is bad news for New Zealand Inc.
The unpalatable fact is the country has gone backwards, largely due to the sharp decline in dairy returns.
The projected primary sector export total of $36.7 billion this year is an increase of $1 billion on 2015 but is well below the peak of $38.3 billion in 2014. It is not until 2018 that the returns are expected to eclipse the total of four years earlier.
It still remains the case that farming drives the New Zealand economy. The primary sector accounts for 55 percent of current exports. And the indications are increasingly that the Government’s 2025 export targets are wishful thinking.
It is not just dairy commodity products that have been hard hit.
Meat and wool are struggling and are actually predicted to go backwards from 2016’s projected $9 billion, which is on a par with 2015. Even by 2020 this sector’s returns are predicted to be below this year, at $8.8 billion.
In contrast, seafood is predicted to steadily increase, surpassing $2 billion in 2019 and up again to $2.1 billion the following year.
“Prices in New Zealand dollars are likely to remain high due to an expected further currency depreciation against the US dollar and growing demand from our key seafood export destinations (China and the US),” the Ministry for Primary Industries said in its latest Situation and Outlook.
Horticulture, dominated by wine and kiwifruit, and forestry and honey are also showing strong growth.
When the Business Growth Agenda was announced in 2012, the aim was to lift total exports of goods and services from 30 to 40 percent of gross domestic product by 2025. To achieve this, the value of exports needed to double in real terms.
The actual result up until this year was average growth of just 3.3 percent.
Primary sector exports will now have to grow by 9.5 percent every year until 2025 to reach the export double goal.
In the case of fishing and aquaculture, the question has to be asked: How is that compatible with a heavy taxation impost in the form of cost recovery levies that inhibit investment, marine farming and water space constraints and pandering to recreational and environmental lobbies without proper consultation with those most affected?