26 Apr 2013

China passes Australia as biggest export market

9:28 pm on 26 April 2013

China has overtaken Australia as New Zealand's main export market.

Statistics New Zealand figures released on Friday show goods exported to China in the three months to March were valued at $2.3 billion, while exports to Australia were valued at $2.1 billion.

Sales to China accounted for 20% of all goods exported from New Zealand during the quarter.

For the March quarter, there was a seasonally adjusted surplus of $52 million compared to a $59 million deficit in the previous quarter.

Total exports were up more than 13% in the month of March, compared to February, while imports rose 7% due to the drop in petrol, machinery and car imports.

ASB economist Christina Leung says the figures highlight China's growing importance for the export market.

"Growth in China remains reasonably robust with its growing middle class, meaning there is a demand for protein. With New Zealand being a key food producer, we're pretty well positioned to address that demand."