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Goods and services exports down in COVID-19 year – Stats NZ

Total exports of goods and services fell $14.3 billion or 16.5 percent, to $72.6 billion in the year ending March 2021, as visibility of the full COVID-19 affected year emerges, Stats NZ has released.

"This fall in exports reflects the changing shape of New Zealand’s economy over the past year, where we saw a dramatic drop in both travel and transportation services, leading to the increased importance of our primary industries," international trade manager Alasdair Allen says.

"Other contributing factors were the slight falls in the traditionally strong export commodities of dairy and meat."

In the year ended March 2021 travel exports (visitor spending in New Zealand, including spending by international students) fell by 63.1 per cent to $5.8 billion and transportation exports (revenue associated with carrying objects and people into New Zealand) fell 60.1 per cent to $1.3 billion. Meat and edible offal were down $401 million (4.8 per cent) and dairy was down $512 million (3.1 per cent), on the previous year to March.

Telecommunications, computer, and information services were steady during the past 12 months with little movement on the year to March 2020.

"ICT services are typically delivered digitally, so less affected by disruptions to the physical movement of people and cargo that we’ve seen this year," Alasdair says.

China New Zealand’s top trading partner

In the year to March 2021 New Zealand’s top five trading partners were China, Australia, EU, USA, and Japan. New Zealand’s top trade partner China accounted for approximately 23 per cent of the total trade with the rest of the world, compared to 19 per cent in the year to March 2020. China has been New Zealand’s top trade partner for the past four years.

China accounted for 26 per cent of New Zealand’s total goods and services exports, and 20 per cent of imports in the year to March 2021. Total exports to China were worth $19.0 billion and imports $13.8 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $5.1 billion.

New Zealand’s trade surplus with all countries was $2.3 billion for the year to March 2021, with China driving the surplus despite a trade deficit of $2 billion with the European Union.

Main exports to China that saw rises in the latest year included wood (logs, wood, and wood articles), up $272 million and dairy products (milk powder, butter, and cheese), up $271 million.

"While we didn’t see the usual spending of Chinese visitors during the past year, China has continued to be a strong export market for New Zealand wood, meat, and dairy."

Imports down despite strong trade with China

The total value of goods and services imports were also down over the course of the March 2021 year, to $70.3 billion, a decrease of $14.6 billion (or 17.2 per cent) from 2020. This overall fall defied a total imports rise from China of $857 million (6.6 per cent).

New Zealand's biggest increasing imports from China in the year to March 2021 were electrical machinery and equipment (including cellphones), up $262 million, mechanical machinery and equipment (including computers), up $246 million, and textile articles, up $203 million.

"This rise in imports of electrical machinery and equipment over the past year is reflected in the March 2021 quarter increase in retail spending on electrical and electronic goods," Alasdair says.

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