Tuesday, 19 January 2021 07:55

Dairy's star billing in NZ economy

Written by  Staff Reporters
DCANZ executive director Kimberly Crewther. DCANZ executive director Kimberly Crewther.

New Zealand dairy exports have grown by over $5 billion since 2015, adding an extra $375 million to wages.

Dairy Companies of NZ (DCANZ) executive director Kimberly Crewther says diverse markets and products have helped the dairy sector navigate market events.

NZ milk processors make about 1500 different products.

“These are meeting needs for a diverse array of customers, from consumer-ready products in retail to speciality products for chefs and food manufacturers, and products used in medical applications,” says Crewther.

“If they were considered individually, whole milk powder, cheese, butter, casein products, infant formula and skim milk powder would all be billion-dollar industries.”

The global trade environment will be key to dairy’s ongoing contribution to New Zealand communities and to globally sustainable food systems. 

“Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of reducing barriers to global trade in food.

“We hope 2021 will be when governments globally lean into reinvigorating the rules-based trading system and turn statements on removing barriers to trade into real action.”

High quality trade negotiating outcomes, such as the elimination of tariffs in the UK and EU Free Trade Agreements, would further enhance the benefit of dairy trade across New Zealand communities, while removing barriers to European consumers accessing lower-emissions New Zealand dairy products.

Recent Sense Partners analysis, for DairyNZ and DCANZ, shows the sector is delivering $20 billion in export value.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says dairy’s sustained economic contribution is a key factor in the country’s Covid-19 recovery, but tourism will also become increasingly important again as borders open.

Importantly, dairy sector growth is supporting wage growth in regional New Zealand.

“Dairy provides long-term stability for our communities. Export earnings translate to well-paying jobs, but also support farmers and dairy companies to purchase more than $22.5b worth of goods and services from other industries,” says Mackle.

At a community level, in 2019 the dairy sector accounted for more than 5% of GDP in seven regions – and more than 10% in four of those. West Coast has the greatest GDP from dairy, at 16%.

“In dollar terms, this equates to dairy contributing more than $100 million to GDP in most regions – including nearly $2 billion in Canterbury and $2.5 billion in Waikato. This is especially significant because of the limited scale of other high-value export sectors in rural New Zealand.”

The dairy sector is a significant employer in many districts, accounting for up to one-third of jobs in Waimate, and as many as one in four jobs in South Taranaki and Otorohanga.

“Around 50,000 people are employed in the dairy sector, on and off farms, generating $3.4 billion in wages in 2019. Twenty New Zealand districts see between $50 million and $100 million in wages from the dairy sector, which flows on to local spend.”

Mackle says increased efficiency on the farm is a factor behind dairy’s success, particularly as farmers develop from a sustainability perspective too.

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