Monthly imports outpace export earnings

Wednesday 28 Nov 2018

Monthly imports hit a record $6.2 billion in October 2018, Stats NZ said today. This is the first time imports have hit $6 billion. The previous high was in September 2018.

“The value of goods imports has been at a generally high level in recent months, with the New Zealand dollar declining and higher crude oil prices,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said.

Import values for the October 2018 month were $758 million (14 percent) higher than in October 2017, with the rise spread across a range of commodities.

Petroleum and products were the main contributor, up $257 million (68 percent). Crude oil led this rise, up $196 million (72 percent) in value and 16 percent in quantity. Petrol and diesel rose $62 million. An industry commentator said that imports of petroleum products tend to fluctuate from month to month. “In recent months value and quantity have been at high levels.” In May 2018 the Marsden point refinery shut down for maintenance.

Other notable rises included electrical machinery and equipment up $90 million in October 2018, led by cellphones. Mechanical machinery and equipment rose a similar amount.

Kiwifruit boost exports in October - Total exports in October 2018 rose $303 million (6.6 percent) to $4.9 billion compared with October 2017. Exports were at their highest level for an October month.

“Fruit exports led this month’s increase, due to unusually high kiwifruit exports for an October month,” Mr Islam said.

The total value of fruit rose $118 million (137 percent) to $204 million, led by kiwifruit (up $112 million). Kiwifruit exports are typically low in October, so both value and quantity in October 2018 were up sharply when compared with the same month last year. Green kiwifruit was up $71 million, with green kiwifruit exports to both the EU (up $38 million) and Japan (up $12 million).

Other notable rises were in sheep meat, up $56 million (27 percent) and untreated logs, up $51 million (17 percent).

Milk powder, butter, and cheese (our largest export commodity group) fell $43 million.

Trade deficit - The monthly trade deficit for the October month was $1.3 billion, with:
• total goods exports at $4.9 billion;
• total goods imports at $6.2 billion.

The annual trade deficit for the October 2018 year was $5.8 billion. This is the highest annual trade deficit since the October 2007 year, with:
• total goods exports for the year ended October 2018 at $57.2 billion;
• total goods imports for the year ended October 2018 at $63.0 billion.

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