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Growing your business using goods trade statistics

This article gives you information on different ways to use goods trade statistics. Find out how to grow your business by analysing markets, measuring competition, and identifying a possible new industry to enter.

What goods trade statistics measure

New Zealand’s goods trade statistics measure the value and quantity of goods that enter and exit New Zealand. These statistics are produced monthly and published in two releases:

  • Overseas merchandise trade (an economic view of goods added to and subtracted from New Zealand’s goods supply)
  • Overseas cargo statistics (records the value and gross weight of all goods loaded or unloaded at New Zealand ports – both sea and air).

Who uses goods trade statistics and what they’re used for

Trade statistics can be analysed in different ways, by using the extensive range of data that is freely available and from additional variables available on request. Universities, researchers, public agencies, businesses, and the media all use our data.

They use these statistics for different purposes. For example, trade statistics can help a business to calculate their market share in a region.

An exporter or an importer who analyses trade statistics can be more informed and, potentially, gain a competitive advantage. They may also be able to identify new international markets to explore.

Businesses can use trade statistics for making operational decisions. For example, by analysing port statistics on cargo a business can get an idea of where products are discharged and in which regions they may be used. The statistics can be a guide in assessing market share, opportunities for growth, and pricing of products.


John wanted to find out where caustic soda is imported from. From the data he learned that it came mainly from Australia and Japan, and that there were shipments to New Plymouth where his place of business is. This allowed him to make unit price comparisons as well.

Table 1

Sample of trade data John received
(Note: full table is in available files)

Table 1

Analysing the marketplace

Businesses can use trade statistics to analyse the market they operate in. Those looking to secure their market share could use trade statistics to monitor their progress. For example, by comparing the amount their business exports against total exports of that item.

If businesses are looking for where to source raw materials, trade statistics are a valuable starting point. For example, by analysing which countries export the raw materials that their industry uses, a business may identify potential low-cost suppliers.

More on how to use trade statistics to explore new markets

Trade statistics can help exporters to identify new global markets or suitable countries to trade with.

For example, a business requests statistics showing import and export volumes from South-East Asia. This could show which markets or countries are untouched and are therefore potential countries it could trade with.

If there’s a country a business is interested in trading with, a data query to us can determine the type of trade already happening between the two countries. Or, businesses can use trade statistics to figure out the extent of competition.

How overseas businesses use trade statistics

Businesses in other countries use our trade statistics for investment purposes. The statistics requested help foreign companies to decide whether trade with New Zealand is viable. The data can also show the trends in export and import trade between the two countries.

For example, table 2 shows exports to China by sea for 2006 and 2011.

Table 2

Sample of New Zealand-to-China trade data
(Note: full table is in available files)

Table 2

Foreign businesses may also use New Zealand’s trade statistics to identify new opportunities and new markets. By figuring out how often a specific commodity is traded they could identify any demand for that particular commodity in New Zealand.

Expanding into a new industry

A business can use trade statistics to identify a new industry it could enter. The data may show which industries are booming, or opportunities that businesses may want to take advantage of. This analysis is beneficial when considering whether to enter that industry.

For example, a farmer contemplating whether to start an avocado farm, or to begin exporting avocados, could look at trade statistics to get an indication of the avocado trade. According to table 3, avocado exports have risen in recent years.

A business can request data about the quantity, gross weight, and value of the item exported or imported; and for annual, quarterly, or monthly datasets. Table 3 shows this information for selected crops.

Table 3

Sample of crop exports data
(Note: full table is in available files)

Table 3

More information

For more information on improving business productivity, competitiveness in the global market, and exploring export markets, see:

Note: the full versions of tables 1–3 are in 'available files'.


Overseas merchandise trade statistics use New Zealand Customs Service data to measure goods as they enter or exit New Zealand's economic territory. This differs from the goods trade that balance of payments measures, which takes into account the change of ownership of these goods, whether or not the goods enter or exit New Zealand's border.

Overseas cargo statistics compile value and gross weight information for goods that are loaded or unloaded at New Zealand sea ports and airports. Overseas cargo statistics can differ from overseas merchandise trade statistics because some goods are sent as cargo (eg engines for repair) but are not merchandise, and some merchandise goods (eg aircraft, ships, and oil rigs) arrive under their own power, so are not cargo.

cif is the cost of goods, including insurance and freight, to New Zealand.

vfd is value for duty (the value of imports before insurance and freight costs are added).

See more information about overseas merchandise trade.

Customised data

We can produce data that is specific to your needs, to help you make informed decisions and grow your business.

Find out more about our customised data services

ISBN 978-478-40885-0 (online)

Published 18 March 2014

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