11 Nov 2009

Jobs may go as maize plantings decline

1:45 pm on 11 November 2009

Waikato's biggest silage and crop contractor is looking at cutting back his staff as the industry feels the effects of the sharpest decline in silage maize planting in years.

Grower representatives say plantings are between 20% and 30% below average.

Contractor John Austin says his business normally employs 45 full-time staff, a number which balloons to 70 with the addition of seasonal workers. Those temporary employees may not have work because of the reduced planting.

They're blaming the amount of palm kernel being imported as a feed supplement for the dairy industry, as well as the fall of the dairy payout earlier in the season which resulted in farmers buying less supplementary feed.

Forage specialist from maize company Pioneer, Ian Williams, says many growers lost money last year when farmers pulled out of contracts, and they're reluctant to plant this year in case the same happens again.

He says the industry could be heading for a major shortage of product this season.

Federated Farmers' maize growers spokesperson Colin MacKinnon says there was a collapse in price last year as farmers switched to cheaper imported feed.