Dairy co-operative Fonterra now accounts for a quarter of the country's export earnings.
Figures from Statistics New Zealand show that the dairy industry's contribution to export revenue grew by 3% in the past year to 27%. Fonterra was responsible for all but 2% of that total.
Fonterra chairman, Henry van der Heyden says the figures confirm that dairying is a cornerstone of the economy.
Mr van der Heyden says the industry's contribution would have been even higher but for the drought, which reduced national milk production by 4%.
He says the benefits flow through to all parts of the community, with thousands more jobs and economic activity - ranging from professional services, consultancy and construction work, to transport, technology and research - depending on the sector.