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Source: New Zealand Government

Strong international demand for New Zealand’s food, despite the global effects of COVID-19, could help provide a springboard to get more Kiwis into primary sector jobs, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

“The latest provisional trade statistics show our apples and kiwifruit continue to be star performers, with $890 million of fruit exported between 1 February and 22 April 2020,” Damien O’Connor said. 

“Our dairy and meat sectors are also holding their own into April and they shipped products to overseas customers worth $6.18 billion over the same period.

“Overall primary sector export revenue remains higher into April than for the same period in 2018, despite the forestry sector essentially being shut down over the past month. Now we’ve moved into Alert Level 3, industries affected by the lockdown such as forestry and wool are back into action and that will help.

“The strength of New Zealand’s primary sector coupled with the success of our health response to COVID-19 gives us a head-start on the world as we get our economy moving again.

“Our primary sector contributes over $46 billion dollars a year in exports to our economy and provides jobs for hundreds of thousands of people in our rural communities. These latest stats show the sector is in a strong position to help us reboot our economy.

“There is no shortage of demand. The world wants our high quality product. We now need a skilled workforce to help us seize the opportunities that are currently before us.”

Mr O’Connor said the primary sector will need about 50,000 more people in a post-COVID-19 world.  

“There are jobs going all over the country ranging from hands on work in orchards, on farms, in forests and fishing boats, to professional roles in engineering, science and management.  

“The Government is working alongside the primary sector to help ensure workers get to the places they are needed. We’re currently investigating further ways we can boost the primary sector workforce through the Government’s $100m redeployment scheme.

“I’ve been impressed by the way the primary sector, government agencies and others have come together to support each other, further reinforcing that our team of 5 million is just as important now as during the lockdown,” Damien O’Connor said.


  • Based on the provisional data, between 1 February 2020 and 22 April 2020, New Zealand exported:
    • Primary products worth $8.17 billion, compared with $8.69 billion for the same period in 2019, and $7.40 billion in 2018.
    • Dairy products worth $3.95 billion.
    • Forestry products worth $0.73 billion
    • Fruit worth $0.89 billion.
    • Meat worth $2.24 billion. 
    • Seafood worth $0.37 billion
  • During February and March 2020 New Zealand’s overall export revenue across the five primary sectors (meat, dairy, seafood, fruit and forestry) closely matched exports for the same period a year ago.
  • Primary sector export earnings slowed in the first week of April, but have recovered in the second and third.
  • Fruit exporters continued their strong start to the season with export revenue from 1 March 2020 up 22 per cent on last year, mainly due to increased gold kiwifruit production early in the export season and a strong harvest so far this year.
  • Since 1 March 2020, exports of meat, dairy, seafood, and forestry products have fallen 12 per cent compared to the same time a year ago, mainly due to a fall in forestry and seafood exports to China.
  • Exports of seafood slowed throughout April, and are down 36 percent to China since 1 March 2020, the main reason for the 15 per cent fall in seafood export revenue to all countries over this period.
  • Overall primary sector export revenue remains higher than for the same period in 2018.