The export gains from several industries, including natural products, played a pivotal role in plugging the gap left by falling global dairy prices, according Dr Nick Smith MP.
Global dairy prices hit historic lows in the middle of 2015, posing a significant threat to New Zealand’s export receipts, before starting to recover in 2016.
Dr Smith said it was remarkable during the dairy slump that other sectors, including natural products, “stepped up and filled the gap”.
He was speaking at the New Zealand Natural Products Summit being held in Nelson, where he paid tribute to the industry’s export gains.
Around 80% of the sector exports, with a combined value estimated at over $300m per year.
“We have a really strong natural products domestic industry, but the real excitement is coming from the export opportunities,” he said, noting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had just completed a state visit to the country.
Before arriving in New Zealand, Premier Li visited Australia at the same time as China provided exporters with some respite over planned e-commerce rules changes.
China’s Commerce Ministry halted plans for more stringent cross border regulations, meaning many goods will still be regarded as personal trade, rather than for commercial distribution.
Therefore, overseas firms should still be able to bypass complex local registration requirements to sell goods into China via the free trade zone model.
As Natural Products New Zealand’s corporate affairs director Alison Quesnel said, this was a welcome development, with the vast majority of the country’s supplement exports using the e-commerce model.
“The China changes have given us a bit of breathing space,” she said. (You can see a video of Quesnel discussing export opportunities in our video here.)
Perhaps unsurprisingly in a general election year, Smith used a considerable section of his speech to highlight New Zealand’s 3% growth rate, low unemployment and relatively low interest and inflation rates.
He pledged that the government was committed to helping the natural products sector grow by encouraging innovation and not stifling businesses with restrictive policies.
“More often than not governments can get in the way,” he said. “We need to allow the businesses in this room to get out and find the opportunities.
“We are not responsible for driving and trying to find opportunities, but when businesses like yours do, we will support that.”