Food and health

Food exports and imports of New Zealand in relation to the food-based dietary guidelines



It has not been reported that previously how much food New Zealand (NZ), population 4.9 million (M), exports and imports in terms of how many people this food would feed if the food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) were followed. In New Zealand, 40% of adults and 20% of children live in a household with severe to moderate food insecurity.


Official data for foods and beverages exported and imported between 2016 and 2018 was obtained from Statistics New Zealand. Harmonised food classifications were matched to either a food group or as discretionary foods or ingredients. Standard serving sizes in grams and number of servings/day from each food group viz; vegetables, 5 servings/day; fruit, 2 servings/day; grains 6 servings/day; meat and protein foods 2.5 servings/day: and dairy 2.5 servings/day were used to determine how many people would be fed each year with the food traded. Together these servings should meet a daily energy intake in the order of 8 MJ. The trade of discretionary foods and ingredients, alcoholic beverages, butter and sugar was also examined.


According to the guidelines the quantity of food exported each year by NZ had enough numbers of servings to feed 39 M dairy, 11.5 M meat, seafood and other protein, 2 M vegetables and 10 M fruit day/year. Imports were dominated by grains, enough to feed 9 M six servings a day/year. Total food energy exported and imported was enough to meet the energy requirements for 20 M (30% from butter) and 10 M (27% from sugar), respectively.


The high prevalence of food insecurity and obesity in NZ could be partially attributed to the disconnect between the quantity, nutritional quality and diversity of foods imported and exported.

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Correspondence to Elaine Rush.

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Rush, E., Obolonkin, V. Food exports and imports of New Zealand in relation to the food-based dietary guidelines. Eur J Clin Nutr 74, 307–313 (2020).

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