New Zealand fruit exports have been the shining star of commodities over the past year, countering a weak period for exports of dairy products.
The country's merchandise exports advanced 2 percent to $49.34 billion in the 12 months ended June 30, Statistics New Zealand said on Tuesday.
Fruit, the country's fourth-largest export commodity, jumped 31 percent to $2.63b, while dairy exports, the largest group, declined 7.3 percent to $11.16b, the agency said.
Fruit exports are going through a purple patch as previous investment in developing markets and varieties starts to pay off.
The $617 million gain in annual fruit exports eclipsed a $250m rise in forestry product exports and a $237m increase in meat exports.
The increase in annual fruit exports was led by kiwifruit, which set a new record, up 41 percent to $1.7b, while apple exports increased 23 percent.
ANZ rural economist Con Williams says the apple industry has developed new trademarked varieties that are favoured by higher returning Asian market, and the kiwifruit industry's gold faces less competitive pressure and are preferred in Asian countries.
The Stats NZ data showed annual merchandise imports advanced 2.5 percent to $52.65b, resulting in an annual trade deficit of $3.31b, in line with a Reuters poll of economists but wider than the $2.98b annual deficit a year earlier.
For the month of June, exports rose 2.6 percent to $4.26b from the same month a year earlier, as fruit exports gained 30 percent, Stats NZ said.
Imports in the June month declined 4.6 percent to $4.13b, led by a 12 percent drop in intermediate goods. Processed industrial supplies, such as fertiliser, soya bean oil cake and palm oil cake, dropped 3.7 percent; primary industrial supplies excluding food and beverages, such as calcium phosphates, dropped 37 percent, while crude oil declined 24 percent, Stats NZ said.
The trade surplus for the month was $127m.