New Zealand’s Top 10 Exports

New Zealand's Top 10 Exports


New Zealand shipped US$37 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017, down by -6.3% since 2013 but up by 9.1% from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, New Zealand’s exported goods plus services represent 27.4% of its total economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, over half (53.8%) of New Zealand’s exports by value are delivered to Asian countries while 18% are sold to fellow Oceanian importers led by Australia. New Zealand ships another 12% worth of goods to North America with 10.3% delivered in Europe. A much smaller percentage (3.2%) of New Zealand’s exported goods arrives in Africa.

Given New Zealand’s population of 4.5 million people, its total $37 billion during 2017 export sales translates to roughly $8,200 for every resident in the Oceania island country.

New Zealand’s unemployment rate was 4.6% as of September 2017 down from 4.9% at December 2016 according to Trading Economics.

New Zealand’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in global shipments from New Zealand during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from New Zealand.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, New Zealand’s number 1 export product is cow’s milk followed by sheep or goat milk.

  1. Dairy, eggs, honey: US$10.2 billion (27.6% of total exports)
  2. Meat: $4.7 billion (12.7%)
  3. Wood: $3.3 billion (9%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: $1.9 billion (5.1%)
  5. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.4 billion (3.7%)
  6. Fish: $1.1 billion (3.1%)
  7. Cereal/milk preparations: $1.1 billion (2.9%)
  8. Machinery including computers: $978.6 million (2.6%)
  9. Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $884.6 million (2.4%)
  10. Miscellaneous food preparations: $873.2 million (2.4%)

New Zealand’s top 10 exports accounted for 71.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.

The biggest category–dairy, eggs and honey–were the fastest-growing among New Zealand’s top 10 export categories via its up 27.6% gain from 2016 to 2017.

In second place for improving export sales was cereal or milk preparations which appreciated 25.7%, followed by New Zealand’s wood exports via a 14.9% uptick.

New Zealand’s meat also posted a respectable gain, up 13.6% year over year.

There were two declining categories namely machinery including computers (down -13.6%) as well as fruits and nuts (down -0.8%).


The following types of New Zealand product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports is the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Dairy, eggs, honey: US$10 billion (Up by 27.0% since 2016)
  2. Meat: $4.5 billion (Up by 13.6%)
  3. Wood: $3.1 billion (Up by 15.1%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: $1.6 billion (Down by -1.9%)
  5. Fish: $1 billion (Down by -0.5%)
  6. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $950.7 million (Up by 6.6%)
  7. Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $808.3 million (Up by 5.2%)
  8. Cereal/milk preparations: $735.7 million (Up by 33.8%)
  9. Woodpulp: $567.7 million (Up by 23.9%)
  10. Aluminum: $536.4 million (Up by 22.6%)

New Zealand has highly positive net exports in the international trade of agricultural products. In turn, these cashflows indicate New Zealand’s strong competitive advantages under the dairy, eggs and honey category–particularly for milk, cream, butter and cheese.


Overall, New Zealand incurred a -$3.1 billion trade deficit for 2017, up by 34.2% from its -$2.4 billion deficit in 2016.

Below are exports from New Zealand that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country New Zealand’s goods trail the island country’s import purchases.

  1. Vehicles: -US$6.2 billion (Up by 19.2% since 2016)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$4.8 billion (Up by 31.2%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: -$3.2 billion (Up by 21.8%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2.7 billion (Up by 17.9%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.2 billion (Up by 14%)
  6. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$739.1 million (Up by 6.4%)
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$683.5 million (Down by -30.4%)
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$667.6 million (Up by 15.5%)
  9. Pharmaceuticals: -$666.3 million (Up by 6.7%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: -$629.9 million (Up by 19.9%)

New Zealand has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for automobiles.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate New Zealand’s competitive disadvantages in the international automotive market, which should come as no surprise given the island company has inadequate infrastructure to compete with large-scale automobile manufacturers.


New Zealand Companies

The NZX50 Index is the main stock market index for New Zealand. Based on that index, the following companies are among leading stock companies in New Zealand that have the highest capitalization values.

  • The a2 Milk Company Limited (dairy products)
  • Steel & Tube Holdings Limited (building materials)
  • Nuplex Industries Limited (resins for decorative/industrial/protective coatings)
  • Coats Group PLC (sewing supplies, zippers, fasteners)
  • Kathmandu Holdings Limited (outdoor clothing, equipment)
  • Mainfreight Limited (logistics, transportation)
  • Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (financial services)

New Zealand’s capital is Wellington, boasting the island country’s second-highest population after Auckland.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also New Zealand’s Top Trade Partners, New Zealand’s Top 10 Imports and Top Oceanian Export Countries

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 6, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 6, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 6, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 5, 2016

Wikipedia, List of companies of New Zealand. Accessed on February 5, 2016

Wikipedia, NZX 50 Index. Accessed on February 5, 2016