New Zealand's reputation as a low-cost dairy exporter is further under threat from growing worldwide demand, according to official national statistics released yesterday.
Statistics New Zealand said that dairy continued to dominate New Zealand exports in terms of value, with the price for milk powder, butter and cheeses rising by just under fifty per cent for the twelve months ending November 2007.
New Zealand is one of the world's major suppliers of dairy ingredients and low cost products, with the findings highlighting further possible difficulties ahead for processors over the continuing high cost of raw materials like milk.
The total value of merchandise exports rose by 18.4 per cent to a record NZ$3.9bn (€2bn) between November 2006 to November 2007, with dairy and petrol accounting for the 90 per cent of the increase, the findings said.
According to the report, whole milk powder accounted for more than half of the value increase, during the twelve-month period.
When combined with petroleum sales, the two commodity groups accounted for a third of the country's total exports, and 90 per cent of the value increases from November 2006.
Merchandise imports in November 2007 posted a combined value of NZ$3.9bn, the second highest figure for any month, after October 2007, Statistics New Zealand said, reflecting the current commodities pressures for milk and petrol on manufacturers.
The US Department of Agriculture as a result, gave warning late last year that New Zealand's long-term status as a low cost dairy producer could be under threat, a claim backed up by the industry.
National co-operative group Fonterra, which accounts for 95 per cent of the total dairy production in the country, said last year that it was paying 43.5 per cent more to its farmers for their milk over 2006.
The increase amounted to a rate of US$5.12 (€3.47) per kg of milk solids.
Despite possible difficulties for dairy production, the growth in exports appears to have been beneficial for the overall economy in the country.
The performance ensured that November's trade deficits were down over the same period during the previous two years to NZ$646m (€338m) from NZ$1.2bn (€628m) and NZ$820m (€429m) in 2005 and 2006 respectively.