New Zealand’s Top 10 Exports

New Zealand's Top 10 Exports


A sovereign island country southeast of Australia in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, New Zealand shipped US$39.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -4.4% dip since 2014 but a 4.6% improvement from 2017 to 2018.

As of July 25, 2019, New Zealand exported $20.1 billion worth of goods during the first 6 months of 2019 up 1.3% compared to the same period one year earlier.

From a continental perspective, over half (55.3%) of New Zealand’s exports by value in 2018 were delivered to Asian countries while 16.9% are sold to fellow Oceanian importers led by Australia. New Zealand shipped another 11.5% worth of goods to North America with 10.7% delivered in Europe. Smaller percentages of New Zealand’s exported goods arrived in Africa (2.9%) then Latin America (1.7%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.

Given New Zealand’s population of 4.5 million people, its total $39.8 billion during 2018 export sales translates to roughly $8,500 for every resident in the Oceania island country.

In macroeconomic terms, New Zealand’s total exported goods represent 20.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($197.8 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 20.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 24.5% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for New Zealand’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that New Zealand also provided $16.9 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 8.5% of GDP in PPP. These metrics include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. New Zealand’s unemployment rate was 4.2% at March 2019 down from 4.4% one year earlier, 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 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from New Zealand.

  1. Dairy, eggs, honey: US$10.2 billion (26.5% of total exports)
  2. Meat: $5.2 billion (13.5%)
  3. Wood: $3.6 billion (9.4%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: $2.2 billion (5.8%)
  5. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.4 billion (3.5%)
  6. Cereal/milk preparations: $1.3 billion (3.3%)
  7. Fish: $1.1 billion (2.9%)
  8. Machinery including computers: $1 billion (2.7%)
  9. Aluminum: $850.9 million (2.2%)
  10. Miscellaneous food preparations: $842.9 million (2.2%)

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

Cereal or milk preparations were the fastest-growing among New Zealand’s top 10 export categories via its up 20.1% gain from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving export sales was the fruits and nuts category which appreciated 18%, trailed by New Zealand’s meat exports via a 10.3% uptick.

Leading the decliners were machinery including computers (down -11.2%) and miscellaneous food preparations (down -5.7%).

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of New Zealand’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.


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 represent 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 (Down by -0.4% since 2017)
  2. Meat: $5 billion (Up by 10.7%)
  3. Wood: $3.3 billion (Up by 9.3%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: $1.9 billion (Up by 22.1%)
  5. Fish: $1 billion (Down by -0.9%)
  6. Cereal/milk preparations: $917.3 million (Up by 24.6%)
  7. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $906 million (Down by -7.7%)
  8. Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $658.9 million (Down by -18.6%)
  9. Woodpulp: $598.8 million (Up by 6.5%)
  10. Aluminum: $574.6 million (Up by 7%)

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 -$5.2 billion trade deficit for 2018, up by 152% from its -$2.1 billion deficit in 2017.

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 0.9% since 2017)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$5 billion (Up by 8.2%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: -$4.5 billion (Up by 43.6%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2.9 billion (Up by 12.5%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.3 billion (Up by 7.1%)
  6. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$830 million (Up by 40.6%)
  7. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$785.6 million (Up by 7.5%)
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$718.3 million (Up by 24.9%)
  9. Pharmaceuticals: -$714.7 million (Up by 11.4%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: -$693.4 million (Up by 12.5%)

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)


Searchable List of New Zealand’s Most Valuable Export Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, New Zealand’s top exports are agricultural products namely milk and cream followed by butter then sheep or goat meat.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from New Zealand during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankNew Zealand's Export2018 Value (US$)Change
1Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream$5 billion-2.5%
2Sheep or goat meat$2.7 billion+14.9%
3Butter, other milk fats$2.6 billion+10.6%
4Rough wood$2.5 billion+13.8%
5Frozen beef$1.9 billion+5.2%
6Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)$1.5 billion+27.3%
7Cheese, curd$1.3 billion-4.3%
8Wine $1.2 billion-0.9%
9Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$1.1 billion+25.1%
10Aluminum (unwrought)$707 million+9.2%
11Other food preparations$668.3 million-8.1%
12Sawn wood$650.4 million+6.1%
13Casein, derivates, glues$552.4 million-13.5%
14Apples, pears (fresh)$543.9 million+9.6%
15Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream$508.8 million+3.4%
16Gold (unwrought)$431 million+18.6%
17Whey$394.6 million-8.8%
18Wool (uncarded, uncombed)$383.5 million+3.1%
19Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)$349.7 million+16.4%
20Crude oil$338.4 million-23.8%
21Mechano-therapy appliances$335 million+4.2%
22Petroleum gases$282.5 million+190.6%
23Whole fish (frozen)$280.2 million-9.2%
24Moluscs$279.4 million+1.7%
25Fresh or chilled beef$266.6 million+10.8%
26Natural honey$244.3 million-8.9%
27Crustaceans (including lobsters)$244.2 million+7.4%
28Animal guts, bladders, stomachs$239.1 million+32.9%
29Iron or steel scrap$215.9 million+26.7%
30Fish fillets, pieces$212.9 million+1.3%
31Wood/other ligneous fiberboard$202.1 million+5.4%
32Red meat offal$169.6 million+3.8%
33Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$160.8 million+22.8%
34Blood fractions (including antisera)$150.7 million+13.7%
35Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$146.1 million+21.8%
36Inedible meat flour$144.5 million+11.7%
37Miscellaneous meat$143.7 million+6.4%
38Albumins$141.2 million-21.3%
39Mechanical woodpulp$135.3 million+9.3%
40Sowing seeds, fruits, spores$123.4 million-14.5%
41Electrical converters/power units$120.7 million+9.2%
42Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$116.1 million-0.6%
43Uncoated kraft paper$110.3 million+13.3%
44Live horses, mules$110.1 million-20.1%
45Semi-chemical woodpulp$110.1 million+4.4%
46Medication mixes in dosage$109.6 million-17.8%
47Whole fish (fresh)$106.7 million-3.1%
48Coated paper$106 million+6.9%
49Bovine/equine leather$104.5 million-13.6%
50Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$96.5 million+7.9%
51Phone system devices $95.3 million-40.3%
52Buttermilk, yogurt$94.2 million-16.7%
53Harvest/threshing machinery$90.7 million-6.9%
54Agricultural/forestry/bee-keeping machines$90.6 million+21.4%
55Fats of bovine, sheep, goats$90 million-1.9%
56Miscellaneous animal products$89.6 million-7.6%
57Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)$89 million-5.2%
58Plastic tableware, kitchenware, toiletry$87.9 million+16.5%
59Frozen vegetables$87.5 million+1.2%
60Sauces, mixed condiments, seasonings$80 million-6.8%
61Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$79.5 million-31.7%
62Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$78 million+14.8%
63Tufted carpets/textile floor coverings$74.6 million-8.4%
64Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$74.2 million-10.7%
65Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)$71.9 million+8.6%
66Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels$71.2 million-42.7%
67Dates/figs/pineapples/mangoes/avocadoes/guavas$70.1 million-19.6%
68Aluminum waste, scrap$69.5 million+13.5%
69Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$67.1 million+72.8%
70Shaped wood$66.9 million-10.8%
71Onions, garlic, leeks$64.5 million-22.5%
72Peptones, other protein substances$64 million+32.3%
73Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$63.2 million-41.3%
74Bovine/equine rawhides, skins$62.6 million-0.5%
75Milking machines, other dairy equipment$60.6 million+39.7%
76Carboxylic acids$59.8 million+58%
77Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables$59 million-0.9%
78Machine-tool for metal$57 million+44%
79Miscellaneous plastic items$55.4 million-10.6%
80Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$55 million-47.7%
81Sheep/lamb rawhides, skins$54.8 million-17.3%
82Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$51.2 million+3.1%
83Temperature-change machines$51.1 million-5.8%
84Magnets including electro-magnets$51.1 million+7.1%
85Electrical machinery$50.5 million-8.1%
86Soups, broths, food preparations$50.1 million+2.8%
87Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$49 million-25.9%
88Apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums$48.8 million-28.1%
89Lifting/loading machinery$48.2 million-17.2%
90Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$48 million+0.8%
91Fruit and vegetable juices$47.2 million-11.2%
92 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $47.2 million-17.9%
93Miscellaneous engines, motors$46.9 million-20.6%
94Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)$46.4 million-25.4%
95Other prepared/preserved vegetables (non-frozen)$45.2 million-9.9%
96Paper/paperboard waste, scrap$44.8 million-26.5%
97Ivory, whalebone, horns, tortoiseshell$44.3 million-6.8%
98Poultry meat$44.3 million+8.9%
99Air conditioners$41.6 million-14.1%
100Ice cream, edible ice$40.8 million+47.6%
101Processed petroleum oils$39.1 million-47.8%
102Solid-form sugars, fructose, glucose, lactose$38.8 million-4.9%
103Machinery for making semi-conductors$38.7 million+127.9%
104Tissues, napkins, toilet paper$37.6 million-13.4%
105Iron ferroalloys$36.9 million+2598.2%
106Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust$36.7 million-11.7%
107Veneer sheets, sheets for sawn wood$36.3 million+9.5%
108Cigars/cigarellos, cigarettes$36.1 million-21.7%
109Refrigerators, freezers$35.9 million-29.1%
110Meat or fish extracts, juices$35.8 million-13.5%
111Physical/chemical analysis tools$35.4 million-6.5%
112Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$34.9 million-15.3%
113Copper waste, scrap$34.6 million-8.4%
114Machinery parts$34.3 million-11.5%
115Computers, optical readers$34 million-49.1%
116Miscellaneous iron or steel items$31.9 million-16.6%
117Malt beer$31.1 million+12.4%
118Automobile parts/accessories$30.4 million-43%
119Petroleum oil residues$29.1 million+1455250%
120Cereal-based foods$28.8 million-23.1%
121Taps, valves, similar appliances$28.8 million-10.5%
122High-voltage switches, fuses$28.6 million+7.5%
123Bulbs, tubers, roots$28.5 million-3.8%
124Miscellaneous preserved fruits$28 million-9.6%
125Air or vacuum pumps$27.6 million+76.2%
126Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$27.5 million+5.9%
127Industrial preparation machinery$26.8 million+1.5%
128Jams, jellies, marmalades, pastes$26.7 million+12.7%
129Miscellaneous furniture$26.4 million-16.2%
130Jewelry$26.3 million-22%
131Other animal leather$26.3 million+56.3%
132Miscellaneous machinery$25.9 million-13.5%
133Weighing or counting machines$25.7 million-10.6%
134Vulcanized rubber items$25.5 million-16%
135Wood carpentry, builders' joinery$25.3 million-28.7%
136Particle board, other ligneous materials$25.3 million-11.6%
137Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)$25.2 million-9%
138Liquid pumps and elevators$25.2 million-25.7%
139Lower-voltage switches, fuses$25.2 million-24.3%
140Aluminum bars/rods$24.7 million+7.8%
141Interchangeable hand/machine tools$22.7 million-8.1%
142Other measuring/testing machines$22.6 million-28.2%
143Items of stone, other mineral substances$22.4 million-7%
144Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$21.7 million-19%
145Live poultry, ducks, geese, turkeys$21.7 million+2.1%
146Other organic cleaning preparations$21.5 million+1.2%
147Dried shelled vegetables$21.5 million-14.4%
148Medication mixes not in dosage$21.2 million+16.9%
149Live bovine cattle$21 million-53.6%
150Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$20.6 million-4%
151Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)$20.3 million-13.3%
152Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$20 million+7.6%
153Uncoated paper$19.8 million-3.6%
154Mineral, aerated waters$19.8 million+17.2%
155Tanned or dressed furskins$19.5 million+43.8%
156Dried vegetables$18.8 million-4.2%
157Sort/screen/washing machinery$18.7 million-10%
158Insulated wire/cable$18.6 million-14.6%
159Camp items including tents, sails$17.9 million-26.7%
160Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$17.8 million+35.9%
161Aluminum containers$17.7 million-30.9%
162Paper containers, cellulose wadding$17.7 million+4.5%
163Potatoes$17.6 million-3.2%
164Miscellaneous copper items$17.6 million+28.5%
165Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms$17.4 million-8.6%
166Trailers$17 million-16.1%
167Base metal mountings, fittings$16.7 million-6.4%
168Miscellaneous aluminum items$16.7 million+5.2%
169Miscellaneous machine electrical parts$15.8 million-2.2%
170Paper labels$15.2 million-3.7%
171Aircraft, spacecraft$14.7 million-83%
172Iron and steel stoves, barbecues$14.7 million+5.5%
173Provitamins, vitamins$14.5 million-53.8%
174Pasta, couscous$14.5 million-9.4%
175Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$14.1 million-2.8%
176Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$13.9 million+37%
177Fish/marine mammal fats and oils$13.8 million+78.6%
178Salts, pure sodium chloride$13.8 million+9.5%
179Fresh or dried flowers (for bouquets, ornamental)$13.7 million-6.4%
180Organic surface-active products, soap$13.4 million+1%
181Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$13.4 million-13.8%
182Sports equipment$13.2 million-24%
183Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$13.2 million-11%
184Material removal machine-tools$13.1 million+209.1%
185Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$12.8 million-15.2%
186#N/A$12.7 million-26.3%
187Corn$12.6 million-4.1%
188Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$12.6 million-1.5%
189Aircraft parts$12.5 million-71.5%
190Sugar (cane or beet)$12.5 million-5.1%
191Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$12.2 million+86.9%
192Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$12.1 million-17.5%
193Miscellaneous printed matter$12 million-27%
194Chemical industry products/residuals$11.8 million-19.4%
195Refined copper, unwrought alloys$11.5 million+43.5%
196Dried organs, heparin$11.4 million+41.9%
197Printed books, brochures$11.3 million-4.4%
198Mattresses, quilts$11.2 million+35.2%
199TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$11.2 million-44.1%
200Radar, radio communication items$11 million-39.4%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$35.6 billion or more than 90% by value for all products exported from New Zealand during 2018.

See also New Zealand’s Top Trading 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 June 29, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 4, 2019

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 4, 2019

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 25, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 29, 2019

Wikipedia, List of companies of New Zealand. Accessed on February 4, 2019

Wikipedia, NZX 50 Index. Accessed on February 4, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 29, 2019