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March exports hit a record $5.7 billion

26 April 2019

Exports hit a new high in March, driven by higher exports of dairy, meat, and forestry products, especially to China, Stats NZ said today.

In March 2019, the value of total goods exports rose $899 million (19 percent) from March 2018 to reach $5.7 billion. This was a new record for any month – the previous high for monthly exports was in December 2017.

In contrast, the value of total goods imports in March 2019 fell $174 million (3.5 percent) to $4.8 billion in March 2019.

The monthly trade balance was a surplus of $922 million, the highest since the April 2011 record goods trade surplus for all months ($1.2 billion).

“Despite March 2019 being a strong month for exports, imports have been generally rising faster than exports in recent months,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said.

“The annual goods trade deficit remains at high levels – it was $5.6 billion in the March 2019 year.”

Dairy products lead rise in exports

Exports of dairy products led the rise in exports, up $264 million (22 percent) to $1.4 billion in March 2019.

This rise was led by milk powder, up $226 million on a year earlier. The rise was quantity-led, but unit values also rose, up 6.5 percent on March 2018. There were contrasting movements in other dairy commodities: 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 (a commodity group that includes infant formula), forestry products, and fruit.

Of our main export markets, China had the largest increase, up $522 million (52 percent) to $1.5 billion.

“Exports to China were the leading contributor to increases in several primary sector commodities including dairy products, beef, lamb, and forestry products,” Mr Islam said.

Petroleum and products lead fall in imports

Imports of petroleum and products (down $130 million) led the fall in goods imports in March 2019.

Other main contributors to the fall in imports were vehicles, parts, and accessories (down $86 million), and aircraft and parts (down $71 million). These falls were partly offset by a rise in electrical machinery and equipment, up $44 million.

The Government Statistician authorises all statistics and data we publish.

For more information about these statistics:

• Visit Overseas merchandise trade: March 2019

• See CSV files for download


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