Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the New Zealand dollar depreciated by -7.3% against the US dollar since 2016 and declined by -1.6% from 2019 to 2020. 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 (58.4%) of New Zealand’s exports by value in 2020 were delivered to Asian countries while 14.6% were sold to fellow Oceanian importers led by neighboring Australia. New Zealand shipped another 12.2% worth of goods to North America with 10.1% delivered in Europe. Smaller percentages of New Zealand’s exported goods arrived in Africa (2.6%) and Latin America (1.5%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given New Zealand’s population of 5 million people, its total $37.4 billion during 2020 export sales translates to roughly $7,500 for every resident in the Oceanian 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 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from New Zealand.
- Dairy, eggs, honey: US$10.6 billion (28.5% of total exports)
- Meat: $5.2 billion (14%)
- Wood: $2.9 billion (7.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2.5 billion (6.7%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $1.6 billion (4.3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.5 billion (4%)
- Fish: $1.1 billion (2.8%)
- Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $946.8 million (2.5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $913.2 million (2.4%)
- Machinery including computers: $860.8 million (2.3%)
New Zealand’s top 10 exports accounted for about three-quarters (75.4%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Optical, technical and medical apparatus was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 65.6% year over year since 2019. In second place for improving export sales were modified starches, glues and enzymes which was up by 16.2%. New Zealand’s shipments of fruits and nuts posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 11.1% year over year.
The leading decliner among New Zealand’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers which fell -14.5%
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.
Overall New Zealand generated a $223.8 million trade surplus for 2020, reversing a -$4.1 billion deficit in 2019.
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 0.02% since 2019)
- Meat: $5 billion (Down by -1.5%)
- Wood: $2.7 billion (Down by -11.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2.2 billion (Up by 14.2%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $1.2 billion (Up by 6.6%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1 billion (Up by 7.3%)
- Fish: $926.3 million (Down by -16%)
- Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $824 million (Up by 21.6%)
- Aluminum: $409.5 million (Down by -21.5%)
- Woodpulp: $399.8 million (Down by -13.7%)
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.
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.
- Machinery including computers: -US$4.5 billion (Down by -12.8% since 2019)
- Vehicles: -$4.1 billion (Down by -25.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3 billion (Down by -1.7%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$2.8 billion (Down by -30.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.1 billion (Down by -5.5%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$709.2 million (Down by -10.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$706.8 million (Up by 5.5%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$626.5 million (Down by -12.8%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$487 million (Down by -13.2%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$480.2 million (Down by -16%)
New Zealand has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for computers, turbo-jets and heavy machinery.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate New Zealand’s competitive disadvantages on the international machinery markets.
New Zealand Companies
The NZX50 Index is the main stock market index for New Zealand. Based on that index, the following companies are among leading stock companies in New Zealand that have the highest capitalization values.
- The a2 Milk Company Limited (dairy products)
- Steel & Tube Holdings Limited (building materials)
- Nuplex Industries Limited (resins for decorative/industrial/protective coatings)
- Coats Group PLC (sewing supplies, zippers, fasteners)
- Kathmandu Holdings Limited (outdoor clothing, equipment)
- Mainfreight Limited (logistics, transportation)
- Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (financial services)
Searchable List of New Zealand’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from New Zealand during 2020. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2019.
|Rank||New Zealand Export Product||2020 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream||$5,646,614,000||+3.9%|
|2||Sheep or goat meat||$2,572,566,000||-2%|
|5||Butter, other fats and oils from milk||$2,303,023,000||-18%|
|6||Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)||$1,532,998,000||+13.1%|
|7||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$1,356,185,000||+8.1%|
|11||Casein, including casein glues||$587,572,000||+15.8%|
|12||Other food preparations||$706,101,000||-8.4%|
|13||Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream||$604,874,000||+5.3%|
|14||Apples, pears (fresh)||$573,690,000||-0%|
|21||Fresh or chilled beef||$305,106,000||-1.8%|
|23||Wool (uncarded, uncombed)||$334,058,000||-27.2%|
|24||Whole fish (frozen)||$275,540,000||-12.8%|
|25||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$277,825,000||-14%|
|26||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$227,548,000||-2.5%|
|27||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$158,583,000||+36.1%|
|28||Animal guts, bladders, stomachs||$219,317,000||-3.1%|
|29||Live bovine cattle||$51,195,000||+313.3%|
|31||Red meat offal||$185,522,000||+1.4%|
|32||Fish fillets, pieces||$201,989,000||-17.1%|
|33||Iron or steel scrap||$176,397,000||-9.1%|
|34||Sowing seeds, fruits, spores||$144,982,000||+10%|
|35||Ligneous fiberboard including wood||$183,283,000||-13.8%|
|36||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$146,276,000||+3.6%|
|37||Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)||$140,205,000||-9.8%|
|39||Inedible meat flour||$119,869,000||-0.9%|
|40||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$108,621,000||+2.3%|
|42||Medication mixes in dosage||$109,817,000||-1.2%|
|45||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$98,022,000||+3.8%|
|47||Onions, garlic, leeks||$114,907,000||-16.1%|
|48||Electrical converters/power units||$102,840,000||-7.8%|
|51||Whole fish (fresh)||$105,683,000||-15.4%|
|52||Live horses, mules||$91,107,000||-3.5%|
|53||Phone system devices||$81,247,000||+6.2%|
|54||Miscellaneous animal products||$80,000,000||+4.9%|
|55||Bovine animals, sheep or goat fats||$69,988,000||+18.1%|
|56||Uncoated kraft paper||$99,992,000||-17.9%|
|57||Plastic tableware, kitchenware, toiletry||$75,070,000||+8.6%|
|59||Sauces, condiments, seasonings||$81,520,000||-7%|
|60||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$70,880,000||+5.7%|
|61||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$63,515,000||+12.2%|
|62||Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables||$55,776,000||+24.5%|
|63||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$89,457,000||-23.5%|
|64||Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)||$50,145,000||+34.7%|
|65||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$82,862,000||-20.2%|
|66||Miscellaneous plastic items||$58,291,000||+8.8%|
|67||Peptones, other protein substances||$58,383,000||+7.8%|
|69||Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)||$80,056,000||-26.5%|
|70||Miscellaneous engines, motors||$62,453,000||-8.8%|
|71||Agricultural, forestry, bee-keeping machinery||$65,599,000||-15.6%|
|72||Meat, fish or crustacean extracts and juices||$41,725,000||+32.6%|
|74||Fruit and vegetable juices||$48,251,000||+14.3%|
|75||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$48,328,000||+10.7%|
|76||Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines||$59,026,000||-9.4%|
|77||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$47,442,000||+11.9%|
|78||Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)||$68,103,000||-23%|
|79||Tufted carpets/textile floor coverings||$61,633,000||-15.2%|
|81||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$48,574,000||+3.5%|
|82||Dairy machinery including milking machines||$52,291,000||-6.5%|
|83||Other prepared/preserved vegetables (non-frozen)||$47,569,000||+1%|
|84||Ivory, whalebone, horns, antlers, claws, hooves||$37,187,000||+28.8%|
|85||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$53,766,000||-11%|
|86||Magnets including electro-magnets||$31,922,000||+48.9%|
|87||Apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums||$46,246,000||-2.1%|
|88||Aluminum waste, scrap||$55,055,000||-19.8%|
|89||Solid-form sugars, fructose, glucose, lactose||$39,690,000||+8.6%|
|90||Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels||$41,176,000||+4.1%|
|91||Bovine/equine rawhides, skins||$44,360,000||-3.6%|
|94||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$29,692,000||+30.8%|
|97||Ice cream, edible ice||$46,244,000||-22.8%|
|98||Copper waste, scrap||$37,115,000||-4.9%|
|99||Machine-tool for metal||$55,746,000||-38%|
|100||Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust||$43,802,000||-21.1%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$33.4 billion or 89.2% by value for all products exported from New Zealand during 2020.
In macroeconomic terms, New Zealand’s total exported goods represent 18.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($205.5 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 18.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 18.5% for 2019, 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 unemployment rate was 4.9% at December 2020, down from an average 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 24, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 24, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Wikipedia, List of companies of New Zealand. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Wikipedia, NZX 50 Index. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on February 24, 2021