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Australia and North America were the most popular markets for New Zealand export products last year.
This is according to the latest ExportNZ DHL export barometer, which again positions Australia as New Zealand's number one exporting destination - with 78% of more than 400 respondents sending goods there (2018: 74%).
The US, Canada and Mexico, moved up 6% to 47% last year, while Europe stayed static at 38%, the report says.
In a year in which New Zealand exporters experienced a slight softening in export demand, the top 10 destinations showed little change, although export sentiment makes it ``likely'' that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will push Korea out of the top ten over the next couple of years, the report notes.
Half of the 419 New Zealand exporters surveyed reported an increase in export orders - down from 52% in 2018 and 55% in 2017.
However expectations for next year remain positive, with 61% of exporters expecting an increase in orders.
"Demand for quality Kiwi products from international markets will always be there, but Kiwi exporters need to be nimble in their approach to get their products out globally,'' the report notes.
DHL Express New Zealand Country Manager Mark Foy said the results highlight that Kiwi exporters should prepare for challenges ahead, but it is pleasing to see New Zealand businesses remaining confident for the coming year.
"The number of New Zealand exporters investing in innovation, new product development and sustainable initiatives to reach international audiences is a testament to the strength of our exporting community here in New Zealand, and the reason why the rest of the world will always want our Kiwi goods.''
The results indicated too that Kiwi exporters are getting behind a sustainable future, with 49% implementing sustainable initiatives.
2019 has also been a year of focus on climate change and the impact that everyday life is having on the natural environment. This has led to a change in the way things were once done for many of the surveyed exporters, with 49% indicating they have made a conscious effort to make a positive impact on the environment.
These efforts included the implementation of recyclable and biodegradable packaging, removing plastic, managing waste and utilising electric vehicles.
ExportNZ executive director Catherine Beard said there were still concerns with staying competitive in the face of increasing industrial relations costs, which weighs on small to medium-sized firms when they make export decisions.
Surveyed exporters also expressed their concerns about the New Zealand dollar, with 38% citing this as a major concern - a 13% increase from 2018.
Further, the survey indicated that some exporters are showing apprehension around the increasing costs in New Zealand due to coming industrial regulations, with 29% citing this as a concern.
Otago Southland Employers Association CEO Virginia Nicholls said it was encouraging to see confidence in the sector going into 2020, though there were "no surprises'' in exporters' concerns around increasing costs of regulation.
The report notes that "Kiwi ingenuity'' is once again the main driver among the NZ exporting community, with just under half of Kiwi exporters turning to new initiatives to reach international markets.
However New Zealand exporters were still not tapping fully into digital potential, with 47% of those surveyed not utilising any digital platforms to generate online orders, an increase from 42% in 2018.
"This may also indicate that a large number of Kiwi exporters are selling to other businesses and distributors (who are not present on social media), rather than to end consumers.
"Of those that do utilise the internet, company websites and Instagram are the top two online platforms, with the number of Kiwi exporters generating 80%-100% of export orders online increasing four percentage points (from 19% in 2018 to 23% in 2019), and the number of exporters who are not generating any online orders decreasing from 30% in 2018 to 28% in 2019,'' the report said.