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Fonterra says a recently-released NZIER report commissioned by the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, shows the value the dairy industry adds to New Zealand and rural communities.

"It's great to see the hard numbers of what the dairy industry actually returns to New Zealand. I think sometimes we forget," Fonterra's Chief Operating Officer for Velocity and Innovation, Judith Swales told The Country Early Edition's Rowena Duncum.

Listen below:

Swales says the report shows that dairy is New Zealand's number one export earner and brings in over $7 billion a year and also contributes $8.2 billion to New Zealand's economy annually.

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Read more: Dairy's billion-dollar importance to Otago and Southland

"Employing nearly 40 thousand people across New Zealand, dairy is the number one employer in 10 districts. I have to say these are pretty impressive numbers and shows the real impact the industry has on New Zealand."

Fonterra collects 80 per cent of the milk in New Zealand, so these statistics are nearly a reflection of the co-op, says Swales

Also in today's interview: Swales explains her role and what velocity means to Fonterra, and talks about a sustainability report the co-op has released which highlights some innovative ways to reduce waste.