30 Jan 2017

Annual deficit narrows to $3.2b

12:52 pm on 30 January 2017

The country has recorded a narrower annual trade deficit.

Official figures show a shortfall of $3.2 billion in 2016, compared with a $3.5b deficit in the previous year.

Napier port has seen an increase in imports and exports since the Hanmer Springs quake nearly three weeks ago forced Wellington's port to close.

Napier port has seen an increase in imports and exports since the Hanmer Springs quake nearly three weeks ago forced Wellington's port to close. Photo: Supplied / Napier Port

Exports edged down for a second successive year, to $48.4b, due in part to lower prices for dairy, and beef and lamb.

That offset higher sales of forest products, fruit and fish.

Meat exports fell 13 percent to $5.9b.

"The large fall in meat exports for 2016 reflects a decline from the record meat season in 2015 for both value and quantity," Statistics New Zealand international statistics senior manager Nicola Growden said.

"The 2016 year's meat exports have returned to levels similar to those seen in 2014."

Dairy exports eased 3 percent to $11.2b, as a record high 3 million tonnes of milk powder, butter, and cheese exported failed to offset lower global dairy prices.

The quantity of milk powder, butter, and cheese has been rising since 2013 and is now 14 percent higher than it was then.

China made up 25 percent of the quantity exported in 2016, slightly up from 23 percent in 2015.

Lower crude oil prices did help limit the import bill though, which eased 2 percent to $51.6b.

Oil and petrol fell 16 percent to $4.4b.

Statistics New Zealand said the value of crude oil had been falling for the past four years, and was now 55 percent lower than the $5.7b recorded in 2012.

The amount of crude oil imported rose 2.3 percent in 2016, and has been increasing for the past two years.

The figures also emphasise New Zealand's trade ties with Asia.

Exports rose 4 percent to $21.9b last year, four times greater than sales to Europe at $5.4b, with the United States at $5.3b.

China remained the country's top trade partner, with exports up 9 percent to $9.4b and imports flat at $10.3b, followed by Australia.

For December, New Zealand posted its smallest monthly trade deficit in six months at $41m, as the recovery in dairy prices helped to offset falls in meat and oil earnings.

Dairy exports rose 8 percent to $1.5b.

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