A Fonterra dairy plant in the northern region of New Zealand

A Fonterra dairy plant in the northern region of New Zealand

New Zealand has more than food to offer

01 October 2014

NEW ZEALAND’S niche industries including wood products for construction and architecture, health IT systems and agricultural production technology could broaden the dimension of the country’s offerings to the region now dominated by dairy and meat products, New Zealand’s regional trade official says.

Haylon Smith, New Zealand Trade Commissioner for the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, said two-way trade with the GCC is just shy of $5 billion, making it the country’s seventh largest trading partner.

The official noted that while New Zealand’s meat and dairy products have been available in the GCC market for decades, the export of high-value, consumer-ready NZ products is relatively new. New Zealand produces around one-third of the world’s dairy products.

“The thing that impresses me the most is the natural fit both the GCC and New Zealand have for one another. New Zealand is an agricultural economy and exports around 90 per cent of its agricultural production, and here in the UAE – over 90 per cent of food is imported. New Zealand produce appeals to consumers in the GCC because it is high-quality, healthy and halal. NZ prides itself on efficient and environmentally friendly methods of food production. This ensures we create products that appeal to consumers in the GCC,” Smith stated.

“Our biggest developments are taking place in the food and beverage sectors – not only have imports increased as a whole across the region, but there has also been a number of investments by New Zealand into the region. Fonterra (one of the world’s biggest dairy exporters) has invested in a processing plant in Dammam, and most recently a warehousing operation in Dubai. New Zealand companies are committed to this region and we are seeing increasing on-the-ground presence.”



Smith: trade and NZ investments in the region are up

Smith: trade and NZ investments in the region are up

But there are sectors where New Zealand has much to export to the region but which have not been tapped into, he said.

“A few examples would be our wood products for construction and architecture. We also have world-leading health IT systems. Our agricultural production technology is always an opportunity to increase domestic production.”

Smith said potential for expanding New Zealand’s largest export, food, was huge and “we’re only scratching the surface of what could be possible here.”

“The biggest trend we are seeing is the sheer number of new food products entering the market. It doesn’t take long for anyone walking around a supermarket in the UAE to spot a New Zealand product. My pick is this number will grow significantly in the next two to three years, as New Zealand companies invest more into understanding consumer preferences and demands in the UAE – the products are moving away from straight food commodities to sophisticated bespoke offerings for the Gulf consumers.”



New Zealand’s exports to the GCC grew from $1.03 billion in 2009 to $1.4 billion in 2013. Exports to the UAE soared from $282 million to $650 million during the period.

New Zealand imports from the GCC grew from $1.8 billion to $3.2 billion while imports from the UAE alone were up from $441 million to $992 million. 

The biggest exports from New Zealand were dairy and meat (beef and lamb) while the main import into the country was crude petroleum.

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