New Zealand posted a trade surplus of $12 million in February, down from a $188 million surplus in the same month a year ago, as China boosted milk powder exports while imports of cars rose.
In the last 10 February months, there have been nine surpluses and one deficit, according to Statistics New Zealand. Meanwhile, the record January deficit was adjusted higher to $948 million, up from the previously reported $914 million deficit.
In February, overall goods exports rose 8.3 percent to $4.8 billion compared with the same month last year, while the value of total goods imports climbed 13 percent to $4.8 billion, Stats NZ said.
Exports of milk powder, butter, and cheese climbed $263 million to $1.3 billion last month, with milk powder spearheading the gains. Exports of milk powder alone rose $155 million, or 28 percent, bolstered by demand in China, Stats NZ said.
Lamb exports climbed to a record $391 million last month, surpassing the previous monthly high of $367 million reached in May 2019, as prices rose.
“Lamb prices peaked in October last year and remain at high levels,” Stats NZ acting international statistics manager Dave Adair said in a statement. “This is consistent with high lamb prices in the supermarket.”
Overseas appetite for lamb helped lift meat exports to a record $839 million in February. The previous high for meat exports was $827 million in March 2015.
In terms of imports, vehicles, parts, and accessories were the main contributors to the increase in February, rising $133 million, or 27 percent, to $634 million. Cars were up $93 million, or 36 percent, from the same month a year ago.
“The value increase in cars this month is in part due to the discovery of stink bugs in four vehicle carriers in February last year, which meant car imports in that month were unusually low,” according to Adair. “Car imports recovered by the middle of 2018.”
“Higher car imports in 2019 may reflect another catch-up as we saw in the middle of 2018,” Adair added.