6 Oct 2008

$16.6m cost of drought for Landcorp

1:36 pm on 6 October 2008

Landcorp estimates this year's drought cost it $16.6 million in lost production and income and in extra expenses for feed and fuel.

But the biggest farmer in New Zealand says its diversification into dairy and deer farming saved it from taking an even harder beating.

The State-owned agency made an operating profit of $11 million for the year to June, compared with more than $14 million the previous year.

Despite the fall in profit, Landcorp returned an increased dividend of $13 million to the Crown. That was partly due to a one-off profit of $26 million from the sale of surplus farm land.

Chief executive Chris Kelly says the widespread nature of the drought left it with few options for shifting stock to greener pastures and like other farmers it was forced to destock and sell some of its breeding animals.

But he says a strategy of reducing sheep and beef and increasing dairy and deer farming operations offset some of the financial cost of the drought.

Landcorp's dairy income increased by more than 80% to $71 million and deer income was up 8%.

Between them dairying and deer farming made up 44% of Landcorp's total income for the past year.