New Zealand’s sheep-to-population ratio fell below 5:1 for the first time since the country’s population records began in the late 1850s.
Its vast sheep herds, which outnumber New Zealanders, have long been a joke outside the country. This is one of the few pieces of information about New Zealand known around the world, along with its association with The Lord of the Rings and Jacinda Ardern.
The country once had enough sheep to feed a small flock per person, peaking at 22 sheep per person in the early 1980s. However, New Zealand’s sheep population is declining as a result of a long period of weakness in the international wool market and the emergence of forestry as a more lucrative use of land.
According to national data released this week, as of June 2022, there were 25.3 million herds nationwide, down 400,000, or 2%, from the previous year. New Zealand has an estimated human population of 5.15 million, the lowest percentage of the population since the 1850s when the country’s sheep numbers were first recorded, said Jason Attewell, general manager for economic and environmental insights at Statistics New Zealand. said.
He noted that New Zealand continues to outperform Australia in retaining the sheep-to-human throne. “Australia now has three times as many sheep as New Zealand, but only about three sheep per Australian,” says Attewell.
Global wool prices have fallen significantly over the past decade, with the average export price of New Zealand wool almost halving between 2013 and 2021, falling from $6.74 to $3.77 per kilogram.The price crash during the pandemic has pushed the average price of UK farmers to Only 32 pence per kilogram For wool – it barely covers the cost of shearing.
In New Zealand, more and more upland shepherds are selling their ranches or converting them to forestry, and the potential for carbon offset sales is now lucrative.
A 2022 independent report commissioned by farmer advocacy group Beef and Lamb NZ found that 175,000 hectares of sheep and beef farms have been sold whole since 2017 to convert them to forestry. . The report concluded that carbon-only agriculture was “a major driver of deforestation.” farm turnover growth”, accounting for 39% of farm turnover to forestry in 2020-2021.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/may/23/new-zealand-ratio-of-sheep-to-humans-lowest-point-170-years New Zealand sheep-to-human ratio at lowest in 170 years | New Zealand