Agriculture and the New Zealand Economy

More than any other developed country, New Zealand's economy, people and environment depend on the success of our land-based industries.

Agriculture is how New Zealand earns a living and together with the food and forestry sectors, generate 70% of New Zealand's merchandise export earnings and around 12% of Gross Domestic Product. New Zealand is the world's largest dairy and sheep meat exporter.

Despite being further from markets than any other major agricultural producer, New Zealand has successfully built highly competitive and efficient primary production systems exporting to virtually every corner of the globe.

Over the past 25 years, productivity in the primary sectors has grown strongly. The Ministry for Primary Industries estimates the agriculture sector's total productivity has increased by an annual compound growth rate of 3.3 percent, and forestry's by 1.6 percent from 1984 to 2007, compared with the wider economy's annual compound productivity growth of one percent.

The agriculture industry is at the core of New Zealand's economy, a major determinant of employment and social wellbeing and a key driver of the country's land, water and biological resource use.

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MPI’s Role in Agriculture

The Ministry for Primary Industries is the government's principal adviser on domestic and international agricultural policy, the performance of the sectors, agriculture's sustainable use of natural resources, international trade, and innovation and science policy issues relevant to the sector.

MPI's role is to work with government agencies and the sectors to:

  • maintain and enhance the business environment,
  • ensure ongoing capability development (for example, skills and resilience to adverse events),
  • identify and invest in areas of new opportunity, and
  • support innovation through research, development and extension.

MPI is the lead agency for the implementation of the Emissions Trading Scheme for agriculture, and for New Zealand's involvement in the Global Research Alliance on Agriculture Greenhouse Gasses.

MPI also plays a critical role in food safety assurance and biosecurity, both of which underpin the competitiveness of the agricultural industry in international markets.


Last Updated: 04 April 2013

Contact MPI

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