New Zealand’s diverse landscape allows for various forms of pastoral farming to dominate in different regions. Sheep farming, beef cattle farming and dairying are all activities that contribute to the country’s livestock industry. Sheep farming has historically played a significant role in terms of the development of New Zealand's economy, and was the most important segment of the farming industry from 1856 to 1987. A source of the valuable export commodity wool, as well as meat for local trade, job opportunities for sheep farmers were abundant during this period. As the economic value added by this industry has declined over the years, so has the number of sheep livestock in the country.
Currently, the dairying industry has taken over in terms of providing the most value to the export economy. New Zealand is the world’s 8th largest dairy producer and exports the vast majority of milk produced in the country. Over time, the dairy industry has grown due to product diversification and innovation.
Horticulture production provides food for New Zealanders, with major crops including wine grapes, kiwi, potatoes and apples to name a few. Vegetable crop production on it's own required almost 70 thousand hectares of land in 2016. New Zealand’s horticulture production also contribute to the needs of the growing global population. Australia is one of the leading export destinations for fresh New Zealand grown fruit and vegetables, as well as for processed goods such as wine.
As with global trends, organic farming in New Zealand has also seen an increasing share of the market in both horticulture and livestock sectors. Many farms are transitioning to becoming fully organic across the country and in recent years, the total land area under organic certification has increased. The future of the agriculture industry in New Zealand will be driven by rapid population growth and consumer demand. Innovative farming methods will be required in order to simultaneously maintain integrity in production processes as well as to ensure sustainable approaches are taken.