A sovereign island country southeast of Australia in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, New Zealand shipped US$38.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects an 11.2% gain since 2015 but a -4.1% dip from 2018 to 2019.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the New Zealand dollar depreciated by -5.9% against the US dollar since 2015 and declined by -5% from 2018 to 2019. New Zealand’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
From a continental perspective, well over half (58.3%) of New Zealand’s exports by value in 2019 were delivered to Asian countries while 15.5% were sold to fellow Oceanian importers led by neighboring Australia. New Zealand shipped another 11.2% worth of goods to North America with 9.9% delivered in Europe. Smaller percentages of New Zealand’s exported goods arrived in Africa (2.6%) then Latin America (1.5%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given New Zealand’s population of 5 million people, its total $38.2 billion during 2019 export sales translates to roughly $7,600 for every resident in the Oceania island country.
New Zealand’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in global shipments from New Zealand during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from New Zealand.
- Dairy, eggs, honey: US$10.7 billion (27.9% of total exports)
- Meat: $5.3 billion (13.9%)
- Wood: $3.3 billion (8.7%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2.2 billion (5.9%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $1.5 billion (3.9%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.4 billion (3.7%)
- Fish: $1.2 billion (3.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $1 billion (2.6%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $886.9 million (2.3%)
- Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $815.5 million (2.1%)
New Zealand’s top 10 exports accounted for about three-quarters (74.3%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Cereal or milk preparations represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 16.6% year over year since 2018. In second place for improving export sales was fish thanks to its 6.8% gain. New Zealand’s shipments of modified starches, glues and enzymes posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 5.5%.
The leading decliner among New Zealand’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers via a -21.1% drop year over year.
At the more detailed 4-digit HTS code level, concentrated sweetened milk and cream is the most valuable product among New Zealand’s top 10 exports.
In second place is sheep or goat meat trailed by butter and other milk fats, rough wood, frozen beef then miscellaneous fresh fruits. For a more thorough listing of New Zealand’s most lucrative exports, please see the Searchable List of New Zealand’s Most Valuable Export Products further down 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.
- Dairy, eggs, honey: US$10.4 billion (Up by 4.4% since 2018)
- Meat: $5.1 billion (Up by 3.4%)
- Wood: $3 billion (Down by -9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.9 billion (Up by 0.1%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $1.2 billion (Up by 24.3%)
- Fish: $1.1 billion (Up by 6.7%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $953.1 million (Down by -0.4%)
- Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $678.3 million (Up by 3.1%)
- Aluminum: $521.9 million (Down by -11.6%)
- Woodpulp: $463.9 million (Down by -22.2%)
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.
- Vehicles: -US$5.6 billion (Down by -8.6% since 2018)
- Machinery including computers: -$5.1 billion (Up by 7.2%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$4.1 billion (Down by -9.6%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3 billion (Up by 10.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.2 billion (Down by -3.4%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$804.9 million (Up by 2.4%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$792.7 million (Up by 2.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$779.8 million (Up by 28.6%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$717.3 million (Up by 5.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$670.9 million (Down by -2.7%)
New Zealand has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for automobiles.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate New Zealand’s competitive disadvantages in the international automotive market, which should come as no surprise given the island company has inadequate infrastructure to compete with large-scale automobile manufacturers.
New Zealand Companies
The NZX50 Index is the main stock market index for New Zealand. Based on that index, the following companies are among leading stock companies in New Zealand that have the highest capitalization values.
- The a2 Milk Company Limited (dairy products)
- Steel & Tube Holdings Limited (building materials)
- Nuplex Industries Limited (resins for decorative/industrial/protective coatings)
- Coats Group PLC (sewing supplies, zippers, fasteners)
- Kathmandu Holdings Limited (outdoor clothing, equipment)
- Mainfreight Limited (logistics, transportation)
- Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (financial services)
Searchable List of New Zealand’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from New Zealand during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||New Zealand Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream||$4,993,542,000||+13.2%|
|2||Sheep or goat meat||$2,639,863,000||-2.1%|
|3||Butter, dehydrated ghee||$2,611,895,000||-11.6%|
|6||Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)||$1,560,222,000||-2%|
|7||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$1,129,406,000||+20%|
|10||Other food preparations||$699,909,000||+0.9%|
|12||Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream||$513,894,000||+17.4%|
|13||Casein, related glues||$551,477,000||+6.6%|
|14||Apples, pears (fresh)||$537,230,000||+7.5%|
|21||Wool (uncarded, uncombed)||$386,218,000||-13.8%|
|22||Fresh or chilled beef||$266,936,000||+14.2%|
|23||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$347,702,000||-20%|
|24||Whole fish (frozen)||$281,067,000||-2.1%|
|26||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$245,610,000||-7.6%|
|27||Non-fish guts, bladders, stomachs||$237,571,000||-7.3%|
|28||Fish fillets, pieces||$214,691,000||-6.2%|
|29||Red meat offal||$168,636,000||+10.4%|
|30||Wood/other ligneous fiberboard||$202,608,000||-9.6%|
|31||Iron or steel scrap||$217,269,000||-18.9%|
|32||Albumins, protein concentrates||$140,880,000||+12.6%|
|33||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$148,752,000||+6.3%|
|34||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$154,564,000||-5.8%|
|35||Sowing seeds, fruits, spores||$123,997,000||+17%|
|36||Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)||$163,617,000||-14.5%|
|38||Inedible meat flour||$144,532,000||-16.8%|
|39||Onions, garlic, leeks||$63,385,000||+84.9%|
|40||Buttermilk, cream, yogurt||$93,835,000||+17.6%|
|41||Medication mixes in dosage||$123,990,000||-11.5%|
|42||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$118,328,000||-8.6%|
|43||Whole fish (fresh)||$106,920,000||-1.1%|
|45||Electrical converters/power units||$129,177,000||-20.4%|
|46||Uncoated kraft paper||$110,492,000||-9.6%|
|48||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$111,544,000||-12.4%|
|51||Live horses, mules||$119,785,000||-23.6%|
|52||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$79,994,000||+11.5%|
|54||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$101,782,000||-18.6%|
|55||Sauces, preparations, mixed condiments||$81,079,000||+0.3%|
|56||Phone system devices||$168,328,000||-51.8%|
|57||Miscellaneous animal products||$88,765,000||-9.5%|
|58||Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)||$89,466,000||-10.6%|
|59||Plastic tableware, kitchenware, toiletry||$90,073,000||-16.6%|
|60||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$77,546,000||-8.8%|
|61||Bovine, sheep, goat fats||$89,213,000||-21.4%|
|63||Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)||$72,134,000||-5.7%|
|66||Agricultural, forestry, poultry, bee machinery||$94,810,000||-30.4%|
|67||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$96,195,000||-34.1%|
|68||Miscellaneous engines, motors||$51,453,000||+21.3%|
|69||Tufted carpets/textile floor coverings||$75,139,000||-18.1%|
|70||Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines||$51,389,000||+14.6%|
|71||Articles made from plastic||$63,611,000||-8.2%|
|72||Miscellaneous plastic items||$60,941,000||-4.6%|
|73||Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables||$56,983,000||+0.2%|
|74||Machine-tool for metal||$58,870,000||-5.2%|
|75||Aluminum waste, scrap||$70,295,000||-21.6%|
|76||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$52,560,000||+1.8%|
|79||Live bovine cattle||$20,857,000||+144.4%|
|81||Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)||$60,124,000||-16.9%|
|83||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$49,420,000||-1.8%|
|84||Fruit and vegetable juices||$47,913,000||+0.5%|
|85||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$56,071,000||-14.1%|
|86||Processed petroleum oils||$41,553,000||+15.4%|
|88||Apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums||$46,821,000||+1.5%|
|89||Other prepared/preserved vegetables (non-frozen)||$45,666,000||+3.9%|
|91||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$41,324,000||+14.5%|
|92||Ice cream, edible ice||$40,938,000||+12.7%|
|93||Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust||$36,693,000||+19.4%|
|94||Bovine/equine rawhides, skins||$63,922,000||-31.7%|
|95||Meat/fish extracts, juices||$35,957,000||+15.7%|
|96||Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels||$84,669,000||-51%|
|98||Solid-form sugars, fructose, glucose, lactose||$39,142,000||+1.4%|
|99||Mineral, aerated waters||$19,984,000||+98.5%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$33.5 billion or 87.6% by value for all products exported from New Zealand during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, New Zealand’s total exported goods represent 18.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($206.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 18.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 20.1% for 2018, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for New Zealand’s total economic performance.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. New Zealand’s average unemployment rate was 4.336% in 2019, down from 4.275% one year earlier according to the International Monetary Fund.
See also New Zealand’s Top Trading Partners, New Zealand’s Top 10 Imports and Top Oceanian Export Countries
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International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on February 1, 2020
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Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on February 1, 2020
Wikipedia, List of companies of New Zealand. Accessed on February 1, 2020
Wikipedia, NZX 50 Index. Accessed on February 1, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on February 1, 2020