Sector insights
  • $53.1bn
    Food and Fibre sector Export Revenue year to June 2022 (MPI)
  • 13%
    of New Zealand’s workforce was employed in Food and Fibre sector in year ending March 2020, (Stats NZ, MPI)
  • 16%
    of the Muka Tangata industries workforce were Māori in 2020 (Stats NZ IDI)
  • 81.4%
    Food and Fibre sector contribution to National Export Trade in year to June 2022 (Stats NZ, MPI)


Muka Tangata is the Workforce Development Council (WDC) for People, Food and Fibre – we work on ways to enhance vocational education and training to meet industry needs. We represent 14 industries including: dairy; sheep, beef, deer, and wool; poultry, pigs, and other livestock farming; arable farming; vegetables and fruit growing; viticulture and winemaking; forestry; seafood; apiculture; equine, greyhounds and racing; veterinary; nursery, turf and gardening; and food and fibre support industries.

The food and fibre sector is an important part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s economy and comprises a significant portion of the workforce, with 13% of New Zealand’s workforce employed in food and fibre in the year ending March 2020 (Stats NZ, MPI), and 16% of the Muka Tangata industries workforce identifying as Māori in 2020 (Stats NZ, IDI). More recently the sector has also become an integral part of the country’s recovery from COVID-19.

Industries making up the sector have a long history in Aotearoa and have been particularly important in supporting and shaping rural communities. In the year to March 2021, food and fibre accounted for 10.7% of New Zealand’s GDP (Stats NZ, MPI) and contributed $53.1 billion in export revenue for the year ending June 2022 (MPI).

Though COVID-19 immigration restrictions and supply chain issues have been disruptive for the sector, exports have continued to perform strongly – in the year ending June 2020 food and fibre contributed 81.4% to national export trades (Stats NZ, MPI). Furthermore, there are a range of global and national trends and market shifts underway that will have significant impacts on the sector and the skills required by the workforce. For example, while 25 – 34 year olds were the largest age bracket within Muka Tangata industries workforce in 2020 (Stats NZ IDI), this varies greatly across industries, with some employers struggling with an aging workforce – over 40% of the Sheep, Beef, Deer and Wool workforce are 55+ years old.

While our remit focusses primarily on production workforces (except for seafood processing and some support services), understanding the entire food and fibre sector provides valuable context and will help us to understand vocational pathways across the sector.