NZ exports hit record as Chinese buying revives

New Zealand's exports hit a record in March amid revived Chinese demand for local dairy, meat and forestry products.

The value of total goods exports lifted 19 percent to $5.7 billion last month from March 2018. At the same time, imports shrank 3.5 percent to $4.8 billion, Stats NZ said. The monthly trade balance was a surplus of $922 million, the largest since the April 2011 record of $1.2 billion. Economists had expected a monthly surplus of $116 million, according to a Bloomberg poll.   

February's trade surplus of $12 million was revised to a deficit of $68 million. 

“Exports to China were the leading contributor to increases in several primary sector commodities including dairy products, beef, lamb, and forestry products,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said. Exports to China were up 52 percent at $1.5 billion in March. 

Exports of dairy products led the overall rise in exports, up 22 percent to $1.4 billion. This rise was led by milk powder, up $226 million from a year earlier. The increase was driven by a larger quantity, but unit values also rose, up 6.5 percent on March 2018, Stats NZ said. The value of cheese exports rose $42 million, while butter exports fell, also by $42 million.

Other main contributors to the rise in total exports were meat and edible offal, food preparations such as infant formula, forestry products, and fruit.

The decline in imports was due to a 20 percent slide in purchases of petroleum and products to $516 million. Vehicles, parts and accessory imports were down 11 percent at $717 million while aircraft and parts imports were down 54 percent at $71 million. 

In seasonally adjusted terms, the March surplus was $201 million, the first since December 2017.  

The annual deficit was $5.6 billion in the March 2019 year. Economists had expected a deficit of $5.3 billion. 

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