The pandemic has slowed a lot of things down - but as of March it wasn't slowing down New Zealand's exports. They hit a record high in the month.
And the rise helped the country achieve a monthly trade surplus of $672 million.
Statistics New Zealand said the value of total goods exports rose $215 million (3.8%) from March 2019 to reach $5.8 billion in March 2020.
Goods imports in March 2020 rose $369 million (7.7%) to $5.1 billion. This rise was due to crude oil (up $191 million or 59%), diesel (up $105 million or 80%), and petrol (up $91 million or 168%). Stats NZ said these increases were quantity driven, while unit prices were also up. And they note that Imports of petroleum and products often fluctuate from month to month due to the timing of shipments.
But back on the exports. The $5.8 billion was a record for any month, with the previous high in May 2019.
Stats NZ said the increase in exports reflected a bumper kiwifruit harvest and higher prices for milk powder and meat.
This rise was partly offset by a fall in log exports, particularly to China, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“This month’s total goods exports were up on the same month of 2019, led by fruit exports, especially gold kiwifruit,” international statistics manager Darren Allan said.
The value of fruit exports rose $115 million (54%) in the month, mainly due to gold kiwifruit. Gold kiwifruit exports were worth $187 million, up $105 million from last March, as quantities doubled. China, the European Union, and Japan received more than three-quarters of all gold kiwifruit exports in March 2020.
“The kiwifruit industry is expecting a record harvest and reports strong demand from markets in North Asia,” Allan said.
The kiwifruit export season runs from March to November.
Export values of dairy products (up $106 million or 7.6%) and meat (up $102 million or 11%) also contributed to the total rise in March 2020. These increases in values were led by:
- milk powder (up $132 million)
- sheep meat (up $62 million)
- beef (up $49 million).
Partly offsetting these rises were falls in forestry products, down $185 million (or 35%). This decrease reflected a fall in untreated logs to China, which was quantity driven.
Exports to China fell in March 2020 when compared with March 2019, down $87 million to $1.4 billion. This fall was due to untreated logs, down $173 million, partly offset by rises in milk powder, infant formula, and gold kiwifruit.
But exports to China have fallen two months in a row compared with the same period last year.
And imports from China also fell, down $83 million from last year to $714 million in March 2020. This fall was across a range of commodities, including furniture, electrical machinery and equipment, vehicles, and clothing. Imports from China have fallen three months in a row compared with the same period last year.