China has overtaken Australia as New Zealand's biggest export market, with growth in trade in the past year described as ''phenomenal''.
New Zealand's Trade and Enterprise representative in China Ivan Kinsella says the growth in exports to China has been stunning, and that is probably just as well.
He says exports to China for the year to November were up 41.5%, while New Zealand's overall export total rose by just 2.6%.
"Without that increase in exports to China, New Zealand's total merchandise exports may well have gone down."
The Meat Industry Association says China has now overtaken Britain as New Zealand's biggest destination for sheepmeat.
In November alone, the value of New Zealand goods heading for the world's second-largest economy was a record $774-million dollars, with 63% of those exports dairy products.
But the chair of the Dairy Companies Association, Malcolm Bailey, says the growth in dairy exports has created problems of its own.
"As part of New Zealand's Free Trade Agreement made in 2008, China negotiatied safeguard measures, meaning that if imports surged by a certain amount they could increase the tariff from 5% to 10%. At the time it was done it was anticipated we probably wouldn't hit those numbers, but we're now hitting those limits before January has even gone."