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 made its imports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive when converted starting from the US dollar.
From a continental perspective, 54.2% of New Zealand’s total imports by value in 2020 were purchased from Asian countries. European trade partners supplied 19.5% of import purchases by New Zealand while 12.7% worth of goods originated from fellow Oceanian nations led by Australia and Fiji. North American suppliers also accounted for 11.5%, well ahead of the 1.6% portion from Latin America (excluding Mexico) and the Caribbean plus the 0.5% from exporters in Africa.
Given New Zealand’s population of 5 million people, its total $37.2 billion in 2020 imports translates to roughly $7,400 in yearly product demand from every person in the Pacific Ocean island country.
New Zealand’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in New Zealand’s import purchases during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into New Zealand.
- Machinery including computers: US$5.3 billion (14.3% of total imports)
- Vehicles: $4.2 billion (11.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $3.5 billion (9.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $3.1 billion (8.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.5 billion (3.9%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $1.3 billion (3.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $994.9 million (2.7%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $815.3 million (2.2%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $772.3 million (2.1%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $755.3 million (2%)
New Zealand’s top 10 imports accounted for 59.9% of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
Imported food industry waste and animal fodder posted the fastest-growing increase in value among the top 10 import categories thanks to a 17.3% increase from 2019 to 2020. The only other improving product category was pharmaceuticals via a 3.2% uptick.
Leading the declining import categories were mineral fuels including oil (down -32.9%), vehicles (down -25.5%) then machinery including computers (down -13.1%).
Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level. Information presented under other virtual folder tabs is at the more granular 4-digit level.
In 2020, New Zealand importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Computers, optical readers: US$964.8 million (up 3.2% from 2019)
- Turbo-jets: $743.9 million (down -31.1%)
- Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers): $241.6 million (down -24.9%)
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: $182.2 million (down -10.1%)
- Air conditioners: $163.1 million (down -2.1%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $159 million (down -8.9%)
- Refrigerators, freezers: $151.4 million (down -10.8%)
- Machinery parts: $147.2 million (down -21.5%)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $142.6 million (up 0.7%)
- Printing machinery: $141.7 million (down -23.1%)
Among these import subcategories, New Zealand’s purchases of computers including optical readers (up 3.2%) and liquid pumps and elevators (up 0.7%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of machinery-related imports including computers among New Zealand businesses and consumers.
In 2020, New Zealand importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of vehicles.
- Cars: US$2.5 billion (down -24.2% from 2019)
- Trucks: $825.9 million (down -30.3%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: $309.1 million (down -15%)
- Tractors: $182.8 million (down -38%)
- Trailers: $145.1 million (down -18.4%)
- Motorcycles: $122 million (down -18.8%)
- Bicycles, other non-motorized cycles: $46.9 million (down -23%)
- Motorcycle parts/accessories: $41.3 million (down -7%)
- Special purpose vehicles: $30.6 million (down -29.8%)
- Public-transport vehicles: $22 million (down -59%)
Among these import subcategories, New Zealand’s purchases of motorcycle parts or accessories (down -7%), automobile parts or accessories (down -15%) then trailers (down -18.4%) shrank at the slowest rate from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of vehicles-related imports among New Zealand businesses and consumers.
In 2020, New Zealand importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electrical goods including consumer electronics.
- Phone system devices: US$1.1 billion (down -8.4% from 2019)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $231.2 million (down -8.3%)
- Electric water heaters, hair dryers: $200 million (up 0.4%)
- Insulated wire/cable: $186.4 million (down -4.5%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $169.5 million (up 0.5%)
- Microphones/headphones/amps: $159.7 million (up 9%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $148.4 million (down -5.4%)
- TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras: $113.5 million (down -3.2%)
- Unrecorded sound media: $91.5 million (down -8.3%)
- Electrical machinery: $90.7 million (up 7.4%)
Among these import subcategories, New Zealand’s purchases of microphones, headphones and amplifiers (up 9%), electrical machinery (up 7.4%) then electrical converters or power units (up 0.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of electronics-related imports among New Zealand businesses and consumers.
In 2020, New Zealand importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of mineral fuels-related products.
- Crude oil: US$1.5 billion (down -45.1% from 2019)
- Processed petroleum oils: $1.5 billion (down -15.8%)
- Petroleum oil residues: $63.6 million (up 4.7%)
- Asphalt/petroleum bitumen mixes: $19 million (up 551.9%)
- Petroleum gases: $15.3 million (down -25.6%)
- Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $6.3 million (up 1.6%)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $5.9 million (down -53.7%)
- Peat: $3.2 million (up 10.5%)
- Coke, semi-coke: $3.2 million (down -60.4%)
- Natural bitumen, asphalt, shale: $1.8 million (up 95.9%)
Among these import subcategories, New Zealand’s purchases of asphalt or petroleum bitumen mixes (up 551.9%), natural bitumen, asphalt and shale (up 95.9%) then peat (up 10.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of mineral fuels-related imports among New Zealand businesses and consumers.
See also New Zealand’s Top Trade Partners, New Zealand’s Top 10 Exports and Top Oceanian Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World FactbookCountry Profiles. Accessed on February 24, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on February 24, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Wikipedia, List of companies of New Zealand. Accessed on February 24, 2021