Exploring the top 5 major exports of New Zealand in 2024

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According to data from Trading Economics, New Zealand's export value reached a record high of NZ$6.953 billion in May 2023, ending the year on a similarly good note with a total value of NZ$5.85 billion in December 2023. These numbers signal New Zealand’s contribution to global markets in myriad ways, as well as the opportunities available to local export businesses wanting to expand to international markets.

As a primarily trade dependent economy, New Zealand has always relied heavily on exports, especially to top export trading partners like Australia, China, and the United States. New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade (MFAT) estimates the country’s major primary sectors of meat, dairy, fisheries, wine, forestry, and selected horticulture products to export up to 95% of their output, revealing how crucial exports are to the very industries that characterise the island nation.

As we enter 2024, Trading Economics forecasts New Zealand’s export values to be NZ$6.45 billion by the end of Q1, marking an optimistic outlook for export companies across the country. 

In order to support these companies in their international ambitions, we’ve compiled a guide to New Zealand’s five major export categories looking at their upcoming trends in global demand.

Read on to find out how your export business can break into the international market, putting your – and New Zealand’s – name on the global map.

1. Dairy produce and animal products

MFAT estimates New Zealand to be the 2nd largest dairy exporter, 1st largest dairy product exporter, and 2nd biggest wool exporter in the world – reflecting a top-of-class standing that continues to drive international demand. The country’s other standout products include cheese and honey, particularly Manuka honey, which have experienced global rises in demand in recent years.

A key factor leading to these successes is a foundation of sustainability and ethical farming practices. Strict environmental regulations ensure farmers minimise their impact on the land and waterways, while also prioritising animal welfare and biodiversity conservation. 

Looking ahead, these industries are poised for continued growth driven by ongoing sustainability innovation, investment in research and development, and strategic market expansion efforts. Undergirded by a commitment to excellence and reputation for quality, milk, dairy, and animal product exporters can remain well-positioned to maintain leadership across global markets.

2. Meat and edible meat offal

The meat industry is another of New Zealand’s key exports, particularly for beef, lamb, and venison. Sustainability and ethical farming are integral factors to success here, with farmers commonly employing techniques such as rotational grazing, pasture-based farming, and biodiversity enhancement. Strict adherence to quality and safety standards are also maintained, pegged to the highest international standards.

With growing demand from both traditional and emerging markets, the outlook for this sector remains optimistic. As consumers worldwide increasingly seek high-quality, ethically sourced meat products, New Zealand export businesses are well-positioned to capitalise on these trends and maintain a reputation as a trusted supplier of premium meat products globally.

3. Wood and articles of wood

New Zealand’s vast forests and sustainable forestry practices ensure a steady supply of high-quality wood and lumber products for both domestic consumption and international markets, including timber, logs, pulp, paper, and wood-based panels. These products are used in various industries, such as construction, furniture manufacturing, and packaging, with key export markets including China, Australia, the United States, and Japan. 

As such, the country’s forestry and wood products sector remain a cornerstone of its export economy, contributing significantly to the country's GDP and employment. According to Stat NZ in January 2024 alone, the value of logs, wood, and wood article exports was estimated at NZ$15 million, a 5.4% increase from January 2023.

Global demand is also generally on the rise, driven by factors such as urbanisation, infrastructure development, and the increasing popularity of sustainable building materials. Forest owners are required to adhere to sustainable harvesting practices, minimise waste, and protect biodiversity – all of which endear them to environmentally conscious consumers worldwide. Additionally, New Zealand has implemented certification schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) to provide further third-party assurance to consumers regarding the sustainability of its wood products.

Businesses in the industry looking to expand their export profile should consider developing these sustainable practices further, highlighting the unique aspects of New Zealand timber to maintain their favourable position in the global market.

4. Fruits, nuts, and peel of citrus fruits or melons

New Zealand’s temperate climate and fertile soils provide ideal growing conditions for a variety of horticultural crops, allowing the country to produce high-quality produce year-round. This has led to great diversity and innovation in its horticultural exports sector, with a wide range of fruits, nuts, and citrus products internationally shipped to markets around the world. Key export products include kiwi fruit, apples, avocados, berries, and nuts, among others, with the industry particularly renowned for its focus on quality, freshness, and flavour.

In recent years, factors such as consumer awareness of health and wellness, changing dietary preferences, and the desire for natural, sustainably, and ethically sourced products have all driven growing demand for New Zealand’s premium fruits and nuts. Locally, research has been focussed on improving crop yields, enhancing product quality, and developing new varieties, all of which enhance companies’ ability to cater to both local and international demand. Sustainability practices like integrated pest management, water conservation, and soil health management further help to minimise environmental impact, further strengthening the sector’s robustness at home and abroad.

As global demand for fresh, high-quality produce continues to rise, exporters are well-positioned to maintain the country’s reputation as a premium supplier of fruits, nuts, and citrus products.

5. Beverages, spirits, and vinegar

New Zealand’s beverages industry, including beer, wine, spirits, liquor, and vinegar, is experiencing robust growth and gaining recognition on the world stage. The country's unique climate, fertile soils, and diverse terrain provide ideal conditions for producing a wide range of unique high-quality beverages, appealing to consumers worldwide.

Wine is one of New Zealand’s most celebrated exports, with the country renowned for its distinctive Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay varietals. The industry's focus on innovation, sustainability, and terroir-driven winemaking has earned New Zealand a reputation for producing some of the world's finest wines. As such the industry has seen steady growth in recent years, fuelled by increasing demand from international markets including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and China. 

In addition to wine, New Zealand is gaining recognition for its premium spirits, including whisky, gin, and vodka. Craft distilleries are flourishing across the country, producing small-batch, artisanal spirits that showcase New Zealand’s unique ingredients and flavours. These products are finding success in both domestic and international markets, with consumers drawn to their quality, authenticity, and innovation.

Vinegar, although less prominent than wine and spirits, is also an important export for New Zealand. The country produces a range of high-quality vinegars, including apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and specialty fruit vinegars. These products are valued for their purity, flavour, and versatility, appealing to both culinary professionals and health-conscious consumers.

As global demand for premium beverages continues to rise, New Zealand’s beverages industry’s commitment to quality, innovation, and sustainability leaves exporters well-positioned to capitalise on opportunities in both traditional and emerging markets.

Expand confidently into global markets with DHL Express

As New Zealand’s major export products continue to gain traction in global markets, there are ample opportunities for businesses to tap into these lucrative sectors. However, securing the right global logistics partner could mean the difference between taking full advantage of said opportunities, and missing the chance to expand your business onto the world stage.

With its extensive network and expertise in international shipping, DHL Express is a trusted partner for New Zealand exporters navigating the complexities of global trade. Our express export services, customs services and expertise, and innovative MyDHL+ platform enable you to streamline your international operations with ease, resulting in seamless shipping worldwide.

Open a DHL Express business account today and discover how we can help your business unlock new opportunities for growth in 2024.