New Zealand’s Top 10 Exports

New Zealand's Top 10 Exports


New Zealand shipped US$33.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016, up by 35.2% since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in but down by -1.9% from 2015 to 2016.

New Zealand’s top 10 exports accounted for over two-thirds (68.1%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, New Zealand’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $174.8 billion in 2016.

Therefore, exports accounted for about 19.3% of New Zealand’s total economic output.

From a continental perspective, almost half (48.9%) of New Zealand’s exports by value are delivered to Asian countries while 20.1% are sold to other Oceanian importers–principally Australia. New Zealand ships another 13.1% worth of goods to North America with 11.2% delivered in Europe. Just 4% arrive in Africa.

Given New Zealand’s population of 4.5 million people, its total $33.7 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $7,500 for every resident in the Oceania island country.

New Zealand’s unemployment rate was 4.9% as of December 2016 down from 5.7% in 2015 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 2016. 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$8 billion (23.7% of total exports)
  2. Meat: $4.1 billion (12.1%)
  3. Wood: $2.9 billion (8.5%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: $1.9 billion (5.7%)
  5. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.3 billion (3.8%)
  6. Machinery including computers: $1.1 billion (3.4%)
  7. Fish: $1.1 billion (3.3%)
  8. Cereal/milk preparations: $847.4 million (2.5%)
  9. Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $840.3 million (2.5%)
  10. Miscellaneous food preparations: $836.6 million (2.5%)

Miscellaneous food preparations were the fastest-growing among New Zealand’s top 10 export categories, up 104.8% for the 7-year period starting in 2009.

In second place for improving export sales was wood which appreciated 97.7%, followed by fruits and nuts (up 89.9%) led by fresh kiwifruit, apples, avocados, cherries and cranberries.

The beverages, spirits and vinegar category also posted a respectable gain (up 71.6%) propelled by international sales of New Zealand wines, bottled water and beer.

The slowest-increasing category was machinery including computers which posted a single-digit 8.6% gain.


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$7.9 billion (Up by 56.4% since 2009)
  2. Meat: $3.9 billion (Up by 25.8%)
  3. Wood: $2.7 billion (Up by 98.5%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: $1.6 billion (Up by 100.7%)
  5. Fish: $1 billion (Up by 40.5%)
  6. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $894.3 million (Up by 84.9%)
  7. Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $763.6 million (Up by 22.8%)
  8. Cereal/milk preparations: $549.6 million (Up by 47.9%)
  9. Wool: $466.9 million (Up by 24%)
  10. Woodpulp: $457.4 million (Up by 23.4%)

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.


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. Overall, New Zealand incurred a -$2.4 billion trade deficit for 2016, up by 273.8% from its -$633.3 million deficit in 2009.

  1. Vehicles : -US$5.2 billion (Up by 179.4% since 2009)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$3.7 billion (Up by 69.7%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: -$2.6 billion (Up by 2.1%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2.3 billion (Up by 20.2%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.1 billion (Up by 56%)
  6. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$989.4 million (Up by 29%)
  7. Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$693.4 million (Up by 202.1%)
  8. Pharmaceuticals: -$618.7 million (Up by 8.3%)
  9. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$573.4 million (Up by 30.9%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: -$522.2 million (Up by 66.4%)

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 Australia’s Top 10 Exports and Top Oceanian Export Countries

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 6, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 6, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 6, 2017

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