New Zealand’s goods exports rose to $5.7 billion in March 2019. This was the highest monthly figure ever recorded and is an $899 million (19 percent) increase in exports compared to March 2018. These higher exports combined with a fall in imports of $174 million (3.5 percent) to $4.8 billion resulted in a monthly trade balance surplus of $922 million.
This trade surplus is the second largest recorded behind April 2011. March has been a strong month for trade surpluses over the last decade. In the previous 10 March months, there have been nine surpluses with 2018 being the only March in the past decade to record a deficit.
Diary exports have driven the increase in exports in March 2019. The leading contributors to the increase in exports were milk powder, butter and cheese, New Zealand’s largest export group. Milk powder, butter and cheese, had an increase of $264 million on March 2019 increasing to $1.4 billion in March 2019.
Milk powder lead the increase up 41 percent in value to $226 million and 32 percent in quantity. Cheese rose 28 percent in value, to $42 million, and 28 percent in quantity. A decline in butter exports dragged down the results from the diary sector with a 19 percent fall in value and a 7.7 percent decrease in quantity.
Meat and edible offal also had an increase in exports in March 2019 of $205 million to reach a new series high of $902 million. Beef rose 40 percent in value to $102 million, and volume increased 36 percent, while Lamb increased 31 percent in value and volume to $95 million.
Exports increased to all our major trading partners compared to March 2018. Exports to China increased $552 million to $1.5 billion, a 52 percent increase. The increase in milk powder exports was driven by milk powder exports to China increasing $128 million. Exports of meat and edible offal to China also increased lead by beef exports to China increasing by $85 million and lamb by $71 million.
Exports to Australia and the EU increased due to exports of a range of commodities. Exports to Australia were up $59 million to $815 million and exports to the EU increased $38 million to $553 million. Exports to the USA were up 17 percent to $582 million and exports to Japan increased $13 million to $293 million.
Goods imports were $4.8 billion in March 2019, a fall of $174 million. The lower import value was driven by falling imports of petrol. Crude oil volumes fell causing a reduction in the value of oil imported of 7.6 percent. Petrol and petrol products other than crude oil fell by 35 percent ($103 million.
Vehicles, parts and accessories and aircraft and parts also fell in March 2019. These decreases in imports were partially offset by increases in a range of commodities led by electrical machinery and equipment.
When comparing the 12 months to March 2019 with the 12 months to March 2018 the New Zealand trade deficit increased by $2.1 billion. The annual trade deficit for March 2019 was $5.6 billion compared to $3.5 billion for the 12 months to March 2018.
Annual goods exports were valued at $58.5 billion in March 2019, up $3.9 billion from the previous year while annual good imports were valued at $64.1 billion in March 2019, up $6 billion from the year to March 2018.