Trends in Pesticide Use in New Zealand

: 2004 Exe Summary

Report to the Ministry for the Environment, Project SMF4193
Manktelow D, Stevens P, Walker J, Gurnsey S, Park N, Zabkiewicz J, Teulon D and Rahman A.
November 2005

Note: For SUMMARY Herbicide Used and where {click here}


This project was undertaken in 2004 to provide up-to-date data on pesticide use in New Zealand and related land use trends over time. Such data are needed to help identify pesticide use issues, to determine appropriate research and management policies, and to help maintain consumer and market confidence. Use of incorrect or outdated pesticide use data may lead to incorrect identification of risks associated with pesticide use by different users and contribute to inappropriate policies on pesticide risk reduction. Pesticide risk assessment on the basis of quantity of active ingredient used is not a particularly sensitive measurement, as it does not reflect the assessment of potential risks to the environment and people i.e. “real” impacts. However, this remains the most widely reported pesticide use statistic.

The New Zealand Association for Animal Health and Crop Protection (Agcarm) was the principal source of information for the national sales data in this report. Participants in the Agcarm survey provide voluntary annual data on sales of pesticides by kilograms of active ingredient (a.i.), with data grouped into various categories.

Information was also gathered on the quantities of pesticides (insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and plant growth regulators) used in 69 sectors, comprising data from the horticultural, arable, forestry and pastoral industries. Pesticide use in the different sectors was then estimated relative to the known land areas of each sector. The national sales and estimated use data were compared and the resulting pesticide use patterns are discussed.

Key findings 

• International data (FAOSTAT) on New Zealand’s pesticide imports suggested that since 1999, these increased by 12% and were valued at US$72m in 2003. Over this period they constituted about 1% of the annual value of New Zealand’s agricultural exports (US$8b).
• Over the last five years (1999-2003) the estimated volume of pesticides (tonnes of product), as reported by Statistics New Zealand from Customs documentation, suggests that total pesticide imports increased by 17%. Herbicides increased by 42%, fungicides by 10% and insecticides decreased by 41%.  

• Comprehensive and reliable data on pesticide use in New Zealand were difficult to obtain; Customs importation records appeared to be unreliable because of their broad classifications (e.g. timber treatments included as pesticides) while Agcarm (the pesticide sector’s agency) reports data from members only, estimated to cover approximately 80% pesticide sales. 

• The authors therefore used Agcarm data (active ingredient sales) as the basis of this report that suggested total pesticide use increased by 27% between 1999 and 2003. Herbicide, insecticide and fungicide sales increased by 25, 28 and 29% respectively.

• This recent increase in pesticide sales followed a period of declining sales in the mid and late 1990s that was probably due to various sustainability initiatives within fruit sector (e.g. KiwiGreen, Integrated Fruit Production) as total pesticide sales increased by just 15% for the 10 years period between 1994 and 2003.

• The 27% increase in pesticide sales between 1999 and 2003 could only be accounted for in small part by expansion of the horticultural sector; the most significant increase being a 76% increase in winegrape plantings.

• The trend towards sustainable production within horticulture has continued as most of the sectors we surveyed were actively involved in developing and promoting sustainable production programmes that usually featured pesticide risk reduction strategies e.g. residue management, resistance management, use of selective products and phasing out of disruptive chemistries.

• The fruit industries lead the shift towards the use of selective products and the phasing out of broad-spectrum pesticides. Similar trends are apparent in other industries, for example, the trend to replace granular organophosphate (OP) insecticides that are drilled in with some arable and agricultural crops with more selective insect growth regulator insecticides.

• Measured in terms of total active ingredient use, the pastoral and forestry sectors account for the largest volume of herbicide used, while fungicides and insecticides are mainly used in the horticultural sectors. Despite many sustainability initiatives, the horticultural sectors is still the most intensive users of pesticides on an land area basis (13.2kg a.i./ha), followed by the arable (2.4kg a.i./ha), forestry (0.3kg a.i./ha), and pastoral sectors (0.2kg a.i./ha).

• Increasing sales of certain classes of pesticides (e.g. 19% increase in organophosphate insecticides and 35% increase in glyphosate herbicide) between 1999 and 2003 may be linked to small use changes within the expansive agricultural sector. Industry sources state that recent increases in insecticide use in agriculture were due to unseasonal outbreaks of diamond back moth in forage brassica crops. Similarly, there has been increasing use of glyphosate herbicide for pasture renewal.

• Increasing sales of biological insecticides (e.g. Bacillus thuringiensis) since 1999 may be due in large part to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) initiatives within the kiwifruit sector (e.g. KiwiGreen) and the expansion of organic apple production. Peak sales in 1999 and 2003 could in part be due to management of biosecurity pest incursions.

• There remains a real lack of data on domestic and urban pesticide uses and their implications


• New Zealand needs to implement a better system for recording pesticide sales and use data. This has been a recommendation from previous reports (MacIntyre et al., 1989; Holland and Rahman, 1999), but has not been progressed in any substantive way. A lack of consistent pesticide use data limits our ability to make a meaningful assessment of pesticide risks and issues in individual sectors.

• Standardisation of pesticide categories within the Customs importation records could provide the basis for meaningful analysis and tracking of pesticide use in New Zealand. This would allow tracking of generic pesticide active ingredients imported into New Zealand that are not fully represented in Agcarm’s current recording system.

• Spray diary records from individual pesticide users are the key building blocks to any pesticide use recording system and the need for these should be driven by industry sectors for industry good.

• We recommend that a working group be formed with representation from all pesticide use sectors and stakeholders with the aim of developing an improved system for collecting pesticide use data.

Full report {PDF copy}  Here




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