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China overtakes the US as top beef market

China overtook the United States as the biggest market for New Zealand beef exports in 2019, Stats NZ said today.

In the year ended December 2019, beef exports to China rose $880 million (112 percent) from 2018 to reach $1.7 billion. In contrast, beef exports to the US fell $245 million (20 percent) to $956 million.

“China became the number one destination for beef exports from New Zealand in 2019,” international statistics manager Darren Allan said.

“In 2019, nearly half of the total value and quantity of beef exports were sent to China. Around a quarter were exported to the US, reversing the figures for 2018 when it was the top destination.”

The annual movements for both countries were quantity-driven. This was partly due to the strong demand from the Chinese market for alternative meat sources such as beef and lamb, after the African swine fever outbreak in China in 2019 affected pork production.

The average unit values of beef exports for the December 2019 year to China and the US both rose, by 12 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

“The total value of beef exports to overseas markets was up in 2019, with higher prices and greater volumes,” Mr Allan said.

Annual goods trade deficit narrows in 2019

The goods trade deficit for the December 2019 year was $4.3 billion, down from a $6.2 deficit for the December 2018 year. This occurred as annual exports (up $2.7 billion) rose faster than annual imports (up $835 million).

In contrast, in the December 2018 year, the rise in total goods imports (up $6.9 billion) exceeded the rise in total exports (up $3.6 billion).

“In 2018, annual imports rose faster than exports, due to a sharp rise in crude oil and other processed fuel imports from the previous year,” Mr Allan said.

“The lift in imports in 2018 resulted in a $6.2 billion goods trade deficit, the widest since 2007.”

Exports of dairy products and beef lead the rise in exports

The total value of goods exports for the December 2019 year rose $2.7 billion (4.7 percent) to $59.9 billion.

The milk powder, butter, and cheese commodity group led the rise in total exports, up $1.5 billion (11 percent) to $15.8 billion. The rise was led by milk powder (up $1.4 billion or 20 percent), with the quantity exported up 11 percent. The average unit value also rose, up 8.1 percent on 2018.

Beef rose $510 million (16 percent) to reach $3.6 billion. The rise was price-led as the average annual unit value of beef exports rose 10 percent in 2019. The quantity exported also rose, up 5.6 percent on 2018.

Other export commodities to rise in 2019 were preparations of milk, cereals, flour, and starch (a commodity group that includes infant formula), crude oil, fish, and fruit.

These rises in exports were offset by falls in liquified natural gas and forestry products.

China leads increase in exports

Of our main export markets, China had the largest increase in annual exports, up $2.9 billion (21 percent) from 2018.

Exports to China were the leading contributor to the annual increases in several primary sector export commodities in 2019, including dairy products, beef, lamb, fish, and fruit.

Exports to China have risen strongly in the last three years, and now make up 28 percent of the total value of exports (up from 24 percent a year earlier).

Consumption goods leads imports rise

The total value of goods imports for the December 2019 year rose $835 million (1.3 percent) to $64.2 billion.

Consumption goods (products imported for consumption such as electrical goods and retail medicines) led the rise, up $804 million on 2018.

Intermediate goods (goods used as inputs to create other goods and services) were little changed in 2019, up 0.9 percent ($245 million) to $27.5 billion. An increase in parts and accessories of transport equipment (such as aircraft parts) was partly offset by falls in crude oil, and processed fuels such as jet fuel and diesel.

Capital goods (products used to produce other goods and services) were little changed in 2019, at $13.6 billion, with a rise in machinery and plant offset by a fall in industrial transport equipment (aircraft and other vehicles).

Passenger motor cars fell $288 million (5.5 percent).

Petrol and avgas fell $238 million (19 percent).

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