A surge in dairy and forestry exports contributed to a strong monthly surplus of $331m. June figures showed a 25% increase in forestry export volumes and an 8% increase in dairy exports. However, monthly figures are prone to erratic movements – depending on holidays, shipping timetables and the like.
Quarterly or annual figures provide more robust information from which to gauge sector performance. Annualised growth in dairy export revenue was up only 2.9%, with forestry down 7.3%. Receipts from meat exports were also down (5.1%), reflecting the fall in prices in the world market as well as lower volumes.
Overall, total export revenues for the month were up 6% on year-earlier, but receipts for the year to June up by just over 1%.
Import growth was relatively strong at 5.2% for the year to June 2012. This results in an annual trade balance in deficit of $747m, slightly better than the $876m deficit in the year to May.
Growth in the total import bill over the year has been mainly due to a 15% rise in the value of petroleum imports, along with double-digit increases in mechanical machinery and vehicle imports.
Despite easing in recent months, the annual value of imports continues to increase at a rate faster than that for exports. In particular, the value of imports for the June quarter was a muted 2% above year-earlier levels, but exports revenues were close to 6% down.
For now, the prospects of the external sector making significant inroads to the level of nation’s indebtedness appear bleak.