Dairying Today

With annual exports in excess of NZ$13.7 billion, the dairy industry is New Zealand’s biggest export earner, accounting for more than 29% by value of the country’s merchandise exports. Around 95% of New Zealand’s milk is exported.

Characterised by quality and innovation, key strengths of New Zealand’s world-class dairy industry are the country’s efficient all grass farming system combined with large-scale processing, high research and development spending and creative marketing.

Dairy productivity has risen markedly over the past decade. In 1992/93, the average dairy cow in New Zealand produced approximately 259 kilograms of milksolids (kg ms) a season. In 2008/09, the average dairy cow produced 323 kg ms. This increase is the result largely of genetic gains and improved farm management, including improvements in stock nutrition.

The long-term improvement in productivity has coincided with an increase in cow numbers from 2.7 million in 1993/94 to 4.4 million (mainly Friesian) in 2008/09.

The industry, which employs 37,000 people, has been successful at diversifying both its product range and the number of markets it exports to, building an international reputation as a leading edge supplier of dairy products. These range from high quality basic products such as milk powders, butter and cheese to specialty foods such as ice-cream and highly specialised food ingredients such as spray dried milk proteins, protein hydrolysates and freeze dried biologically active proteins.

A growing trend is the development of functional foods such as low-fat, high-calcium and high-protein milk; and the development of biomedical and biohealth products, such as colostrums-based health supplements and products made from organic milk. New Zealand dairy products and ingredients are premium quality, with the industry complying with rigorous health and safety standards.


Export value ($NZm)

Product YE June 2003 YE June 2009
Milk Powders 2,602 4,950
Butter 944 1,693
 Cheese 1,052 1,612
Casein 999 1,055
Total all dairy 5,807 10,402
(Source: Statistics New Zealand)

Major export markets include China, the US, Japan, the European Union, Malaysia, Australia, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Belgium, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

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