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Primary Industries in New Zealand

A World of Industry
Animal Welfare

Primary industries in New Zealand are a mix of businesses who produce, process and move goods around New Zealand and export to countries around the world. These exports earn billions of dollars each year.

Primary industries of importance to New Zealand include:

  • Agriculture – Dairy and Meat & Wool
  • Forestry
  • Horticulture – including viticulture
  • Seafood – including aquaculture and fishing

People rely on primary industries and these industries are affected by some of the world's most pressing problems, such as:

  • biosecurity risks
  • animal welfare
  • food safety
  • and the effects of climate change. 

People working in primary industries help feed, shelter, and clothe the world. Primary Industries have always been important to New Zealand. New Zealand's primary industries earn over $36 billion a year in exports.


Agriculture does well in New Zealand because animals are mostly grass fed, but also because New Zealand farmers are highly skilled and use technology and science to help produce more from less.

  • There are over four* million dairy cows in New Zealand.
  • New Zealand’s dairy products feed more than 100 million people worldwide.
  • New Zealand is the world’s largest exporter of sheep meat and wool.
  • Beef cattle, poultry, deer, goats and pigs are also farmed in many areas of New Zealand.


Most forestry production and exports come from privately-owned forests. These forests are exotic meaning they are made up of trees that have been brought to New Zealand by people rather than native forests. Radiata pine is the main form of forestry in New Zealand. Most of New Zealand’s native forests are protected and cannot be cut down.


The main fruits sold overseas in New Zealand are kiwifruit, grapes, apples, pears, and avocados. New Zealand also makes over 19,000 tonnes of honey.


Fishing has become a major export industry. Fisheries are managed by a system which sets limits on fish catches. As well as fish there are also exports of squid, lobster and farmed mussels. 

During this field trip you will look at how New Zealand manages its natural resources in aquaculture, agriculture and forestry.

Ministry for Primary Industries 

The Ministry for Primary Industries manages and regulates the above industries as well as three systems that are very important to these: 

  • Biosecurity
  • Animal welfare
  • Food safety


Ready for a quiz?

*5.8 million dairy cattle (2023)

Audio Māori keywords: 

What primary industries are there in your community and how have they changed over time?

Primary Industries are important to New Zealand's economy. New Zealand's dairy products feed over 100 million people world-wide. Image: LEARNZ.

New Zealand is the world’s largest exporter of sheep meat and cross-bred (strong) wool. Image: Public Domain.

Science and technology are helping to make New Zealand's primary industries more productive. Do you know what this machine is used for? Image: LEARNZ.

In 2016 kiwifruit provided over $1.6 billion in export earnings. Image: Public Domain.

In New Zealand limits are set on the number and size of fish that people can catch. Why do you think these limits are set? Image: Public Domain.

A World of Industry
Animal Welfare