Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, the New Zealand dollar depreciated by -0.5% against the US dollar since 2017 but strengthened by 8.3% from 2020 to 2021. New Zealand’s stronger local currency compared to 2020 makes its exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
New Zealand’s biggest export products by value in 2021 were concentrated and sweetened milk or cream, sheep or goat meat, rough wood, frozen beef, and miscellaneous fresh fruits. In aggregate, those major exports accounted for about four-fifths (39.7%) of overall exports sales from New Zealand. That percentage suggests a relatively concentrated range of exported goods mainly from the agricultural sector.
New Zealand is also a world leader for exporting concentrated and sweetened milk or cream; rough wood; and butter plus other milk fats and oils.
New Zealand also ranks among the top countries for global sales of sheep or goat meat and frozen beef.
From a continental perspective, 61.4% of New Zealand’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 13.2% were sold to importers in Oceania led by Australia. New Zealand shipped another 12.4% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Europe (9.4%), Africa (2.3%) then Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.3%).
Given New Zealand’s population of 5.1 million people, its total $43.3 billion during 2021 export sales translates to roughly $8,500 for every resident in the Oceanian island country. That per-capita amount outpaces the average $7,500 in 2020.
New Zealand’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in global shipments from New Zealand during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from New Zealand.
- Dairy, eggs, honey: US$12.4 billion (28.5% of total exports)
- Meat: $6.2 billion (14.2%)
- Wood: $3.9 billion (9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2.8 billion (6.4%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.6 billion (3.7%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $1.4 billion (3.3%)
- Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $1.2 billion (2.8%)
- Fish: $1.2 billion (2.7%)
- Machinery including computers: $1.1 billion (2.6%)
- Aluminum: $996.2 million (2.3%)
New Zealand’s top 10 exports accounted for about three-quarters (75.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Aluminum, both as a material and items made from aluminum, was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories thanks to a 50.3% increase from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was wood which rose 33.2% in value.
New Zealand’s shipments of machinery including computers posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 32.1% year over year.
The lone decliner among New Zealand’s top 10 export categories was cereal or milk preparations via a -12% setback.
For a detailed listing of New Zealand’s most lucrative exports at the 4-digit HTS code level, please see the Searchable List of New Zealand’s Most Valuable Export Products further down this article.
Products Generating the Greatest Trade Surpluses
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$12.1 billion (Up by 16.76% since 2020)
- Meat: $5.9 billion (Up by 16.8%)
- Wood: $3.5 billion (Up by 29.7%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2.5 billion (Up by 9.3%)
- Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $1.1 billion (Up by 28.9%)
- Fish: $1.04 billion (Up by 12.5%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.03 billion (Up by 0.8%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $1.01 billion (Down by -18.3%)
- Aluminum: $584.3 million (Up by 42.3%)
- Woodpulp: $532.4 million (Up by 33.8%)
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.
Products Causing the Biggest Trade Deficits
New Zealand garnered a -$6.2 billion trade deficit for 2021, reversing a $412.4 million surplus in 2020.
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$7.1 billion (Up by 72.4% since 2020)
- Machinery including computers: -$5.8 billion (Up by 29.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3.8 billion (Up by 27%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$3.5 billion (Up by 22.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.7 billion (Up by 47.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.1 billion (Up by 52.8%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$1.1 billion (Up by 53.4%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1 billion (Up by 65.8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$758 million (Up by 80.9%)
- Fertilizers: -$726.6 million (Up by 57%)
New Zealand has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for cars, trucks and automotive parts or accessories.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate New Zealand’s competitive disadvantages on international markets for vehicles.
Major New Zealand Export Companies
The NZX50 Index is the main stock market index for New Zealand. Based on that index, the following companies are among leading stock companies in New Zealand that have the highest capitalization values.
- The a2 Milk Company Limited (dairy products)
- Steel & Tube Holdings Limited (building materials)
- Nuplex Industries Limited (resins for decorative/industrial/protective coatings)
- Coats Group PLC (sewing supplies, zippers, fasteners)
- Kathmandu Holdings Limited (outdoor clothing, equipment)
- Mainfreight Limited (logistics, transportation)
- Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (financial services)
Searchable List of New Zealand’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from New Zealand during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2020.
|Rank||New Zealand Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream||$5,860,793,000||+18.6%|
|2||Sheep or goat meat||$2,537,831,000||+14.5%|
|5||Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)||$1,778,248,000||+14.2%|
|9||Malt extract, flour food preparations||$1,472,329,000||-13.8%|
|11||Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream||$635,382,000||+36.6%|
|14||Other food preparations||$647,957,000||+0.4%|
|16||Apples, pears (fresh)||$595,874,000||+1.7%|
|18||Fresh or chilled beef||$298,499,000||+25.8%|
|21||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$237,929,000||+33.2%|
|23||Wool (uncarded, uncombed)||$240,319,000||+23.8%|
|25||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$217,343,000||+25.3%|
|26||Whole fish (frozen)||$240,977,000||+10.8%|
|27||Red meat offal||$189,383,000||+31.7%|
|28||Iron or steel scrap||$158,463,000||+56.3%|
|29||Animal guts, bladders||$214,246,000||+15.1%|
|30||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$216,016,000||+9.6%|
|32||Live bovine cattle||$208,946,000||+5.4%|
|33||Fish fillets, pieces||$165,958,000||+28.4%|
|34||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$152,301,000||+27.9%|
|35||Ligneous fiberboard including wood||$157,440,000||+17.5%|
|36||Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)||$125,967,000||+36.6%|
|37||Sowing seeds, fruits, spores||$161,689,000||+2.6%|
|39||Inedible meat flour||$120,100,000||+15.3%|
|40||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$101,346,000||+33.7%|
|41||Electrical converters/power units||$94,445,000||+33.1%|
|43||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$110,687,000||+10.8%|
|47||Whole fish (fresh)||$89,178,000||+27.5%|
|48||Onions, garlic, leeks||$101,133,000||+11.5%|
|51||Medication mixes in dosage||$108,215,000||-9.9%|
|52||Processed petroleum oils||$16,370,000||+492.7%|
|53||Phone devices including smartphones||$85,735,000||+10%|
|54||Aluminum waste, scrap||$43,813,000||+112.3%|
|57||Miscellaneous animal products||$84,477,000||+5.1%|
|58||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$70,534,000||+14.4%|
|60||Mixed sauces, condiments||$75,446,000||+3.2%|
|61||Miscellaneous plastic items||$63,100,000||+22.3%|
|62||Plastic tableware, kitchenware, toiletry||$80,939,000||-5.4%|
|64||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$50,355,000||+49.5%|
|65||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$68,688,000||+8.6%|
|66||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$66,008,000||+11.3%|
|68||Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines||$53,165,000||+35.2%|
|69||Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables||$71,404,000||+0.4%|
|70||Uncoated kraft paper||$82,565,000||-13.2%|
|71||Peptones, other protein substances||$63,433,000||+12.3%|
|72||Magnets including electro-magnets||$47,745,000||+46.6%|
|73||Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)||$67,274,000||+1.1%|
|75||Live horses, mules||$86,702,000||-23.7%|
|76||Miscellaneous engines, motors||$56,656,000||+16%|
|78||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$53,467,000||+18.1%|
|79||Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels||$42,785,000||+41.1%|
|80||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$52,535,000||+10.8%|
|81||Machine-tool for metal||$34,309,000||+68.6%|
|82||Copper waste, scrap||$34,969,000||+63.6%|
|83||Fruit and vegetable juices||$55,079,000||+3.2%|
|84||Bovine/equine rawhides, skins||$42,055,000||+34.9%|
|85||Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)||$52,968,000||+2%|
|86||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$47,613,000||+10.8%|
|87||Meat/fish/crustacean extracts, juices||$55,402,000||-5.2%|
|88||Ivory, tortoiseshell, whalebone||$47,891,000||+9.6%|
|89||Tufted carpets/textile floor coverings||$51,654,000||-0.7%|
|90||Solid-form sugars, fructose, glucose, lactose||$43,070,000||+18.7%|
|91||Paper/paperboard waste, scrap||$21,027,000||+141.9%|
|92||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$75,147,000||-32.6%|
|93||Dairy machinery including milking machines||$48,774,000||+2%|
|95||Items of stone, other mineral substances||$14,617,000||+223.5%|
|97||Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)||$29,840,000||+55.9%|
|98||Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust||$34,308,000||+33.8%|
|99||Other prepared/preserved vegetables (non-frozen)||$48,263,000||-9.2%|
|100||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$39,084,000||+11.5%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$38.7 billion or 89.4% by value for all products exported from New Zealand during 2021.
In macroeconomic terms, New Zealand’s total exported goods represent 18.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($235 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 18.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 18.2% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for New Zealand’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. New Zealand’s unemployment rate was 4.258% at October 2021, down from an average 4.6% 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 (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 22, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 22, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 22, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 22, 2022
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on March 22, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 22, 2022
Wikipedia, List of companies of New Zealand. Accessed on March 22, 2022
Wikipedia, NZX 50 Index. Accessed on March 22, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 22, 2022