Imports, especially of fuel and cars, fell sharply in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, while exports held up, leading to a $1.7 billion annual goods trade surplus in the year ended September 2020, Stats NZ said today.
Imports fell $5.9 billion in the September 2020 year. A similar large fall in trade occurred during the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, when both imports and exports dropped. This year, exports have held up well despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Imports have fallen since February 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak started spreading around the world and international travel restrictions were imposed.
The fall in imports was led by crude oil (down $1.7 billion) and cars (down $1.1 billion). These falls were partly offset by rises in warships (up $395 million, largely driven by the arrival of Navy ship HMNZS Aotearoa in June 2020), face masks (up $216 million), and laptops (up $133 million).
“New Zealand imported more face masks in the wake of the global pandemic,” senior insights analyst Nicholas Cox said.
“Imports of laptops also rose, as more people worked from home during the lockdowns earlier in the year.”
The total value of goods exports for the September 2020 year rose $1.2 billion from 2019.
The rise in annual exports was led by milk powder, butter, and cheese (up $1.4 billion), beef (up $433 million), and gold kiwifruit (up $377 million).
“New Zealand also exported more breathing equipment, which is in high demand worldwide because of COVID-19,” Mr Cox said.
Exports of respiration apparatus rose $348 million in the September 2020 year.
The goods trade surplus for the September 2020 year was $1.7 billion, the largest surplus since 2014, when dairy prices were at very high levels.
“For most of the past 20 years, New Zealand had a goods trade shortfall, importing much more than it exports,” Mr Cox said.
“The goods trade surplus in September 2020 is unusually high because of the rapid drop in imports since February.”