The dairy sector generated about $26 billion in export dollars in the year to April 2023, but continues to struggle with significant trade barriers, costs and infrastructure challenges.
A Sense Partners report commissioned by DairyNZ and the Dairy Companies Association (DCANZ) focused on the importance of ongoing investment in trade liberalisation and resilient domestic roading and rail infrastructure.
DCANZ executive director Kimberly Crewther said nearly 87 percent of global dairy consumption was subject to trade tariffs of 10 percent or more, costing dairy exporters more than $1.5b in tariffs and $7.8b in non-tariff costs over the past year.
"Reducing them will support exporters to continue growing the export value of New Zealand dairy products," Crewther said.
"This underscores the importance of New Zealand continuing to invest in efforts to remove trade barriers, including those that remain for dairy in some free trade agreement partner markets.
"Fewer trade barriers would mean a greater diversity of export opportunities for New Zealand dairy companies and greater ability to navigate market volatility."
The report said the dairy industry's productivity would be enhanced by improved infrastructure resilience.
"There is significant economic benefit associated with alleviating the costs arising from infrastructure vulnerability and trade barriers," Crewther said, adding that even short-term road closures were costly.
Rail reliability was also a priority, with rail access to the Port of Tauranga, which handled about 53 percent of dairy exports, reliant on a single rail line.