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Dairy industry in New Zealand - statistics & facts

The dairy sector currently contributes over 10 billion New Zealand dollars to the country’s economy and is one of the most dominant goods export sectors for the country. The nation operates mainly pasture-based farming, with large herds and large-scale processing facilities. A significant amount of research and development as well as robust trade relationships have helped cement New Zealand’s place in the global dairy marketplace. Kiwis themselves are big consumers of dairy milk and products, having one of the highest domestic consumption of milk rates in the world.

New Zealand’s dairy economy

A wide variety of dairy products are produced in New Zealand including fluid milk, milk powders, butter, cheese, and infant formula. To produce the vast array of products, thousands of dairy farms across millions of hectares of land are home to millions of dairy livestock. In fact, the population of dairy cattle was higher than the population of the country. Dairy farming provides thousands of New Zealanders and migrants with direct employment across the country, and the dairy workforce continues to grow each year. Additionally, indirect employment in relation to the dairy sector, from construction activity to logistic operations, further supports the New Zealand economy.

New Zealand has a reputation for delivering high quality dairy products across the world and has created a name for itself as a world leading dairy exporter. The nation is the largest exporter of whole milk powder (WMP), with around 95 percent of the milk produced in New Zealand processed to be exported. Other important export products include butter, cheese, infant formula, and skim milk powder. China, Australia, the United States, and Japan were some of the country’s biggest trade partners for dairy products.

Who are the big dairy producers?

Most of the milk produced in New Zealand is further processed by farmer-owned cooperatives. Fonterra is not only the major milk production and processing company in New Zealand, but also one of the biggest dairy companies in the world. The co-operative buys milk from its 10,500 farmer shareholders and processes it mainly for export. In recent years, Fonterra reported a substantial financial loss and did not pay out dividends in fiscal year 2019. However, fiscal years 2020 and 2021 saw Fonterra recover and turn a profit. Other major players in the local dairy industry include Open Country Dairy Limited, Synlait Milk Limited, and Westland Co-Operative Dairy Company Limited.

Alternative milk market

While sales of dairy milk have remained relatively stable, the alternative milk market has experienced substantial growth. Non-dairy alternatives include soy, oat, almond, rice, and coconut milks. The boom in sales of these products coincides with more Kiwis opting for a plant-based diet. With this segment growing locally and internationally, New Zealand’s core dairy products my face even more competition in the future.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 29 most important statistics relating to "Dairy industry in New Zealand".


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