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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions

Low imports tighten trade balance – Media release

25 June 2020

Two months of very low imports have led to the lowest annual trade deficit since December 2014, Stats NZ said today.

The annual trade balance was a deficit of $1.3 billion for the year ended May 2020, as the gap between annual exports and imports narrowed by a further $1.1 billion compared to the year ended April 2020.

“Low imports over the last two months have caused our annual trade deficit to quickly shrink,” international statistics manager Darren Allan said.

Monthly imports were valued at $4.1 billion in May 2020, substantially down (25.6 percent) from $5.6 billion in May 2019.

The biggest fall was motor vehicles and parts, down $451 million (60.9 percent), while petroleum and products fell $422 million (56.2 percent) from May 2019.

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic was again visible in the data – $90 million worth of face masks were imported in May, in addition to the $64 million in April. Exports of respiration equipment also increased by $49 million (112 percent).

Logging quick to recover

Total exports were down in May 2020, falling $350 million (6.1 percent) to $5.4 billion from May 2019.

Logs were a major contributor to the fall, down $41 million (12.3 percent) from May last year.

However, this is a substantial rise when compared with April 2020 – log exports were worth $199 million more in May as logging resumed.

Forestry was not an essential service under alert level 4, so only existing stocks were able to be exported for most of April.

“The price for logs climbed to $184 per cubic metre in May, which suggests there is still strong demand for logs as manufacturing resumes in China,” Mr Allan said.

Sweet start for kiwifruit and honey

“After the strong early start to the kiwifruit export season, values this month have returned to levels similar to last year,” Mr Allan said.

Gold kiwifruit is picked earlier than green kiwifruit and this variety was the driving force behind the growth early in the season.

New Zealand exported $242 million (36.0 percent) more gold kiwifruit in March, April, and May than it did during the same period last year.

Honey exports totalled $49 million in May, an increase of $17 million (53.4 percent) compared with May 2019.

Annual exports of honey were worth $413 million in the year ended May 2020 – more than quadruple what they were 10 years ago.

“This growth comes during a global health crisis, a time when people may be taking a stronger interest in natural foods,” Mr Allan said.

Honey is now looking to overtake a more traditional New Zealand export – wool. Exports of wool were worth $450 million in the year ended May 2020.