NZ's largest trade balance deficit since 2009

  • 27/04/2016
NZ's largest trade balance deficit since 2009

A slump in the value of milk, beef and lamb has contributed to New Zealand posting its largest annual trade deficit in nearly seven years.

The annual trade balance for March was a deficit of $3.8 billion.

"The large annual trade deficit is a result of falls in the value of primary produce exports," Statistics NZ senior manager Nicola Growden said today.

"Alongside consistent falls in the value of milk powder, values of beef and lamb have fallen in recent months."

The value of meat and edible offal exports dropped sharply in the March quarter compared with December last year, down 17 percent or $300 million.

The March result is the largest annual trade deficit since April 2009.

Labour's finance spokesman, Grant Robertson, says it's a warning for the Government.

"It can't be so complacent about the economy and must take action to diversify and encourage exports," he said.

"The biggest driver has been the fall in dairy exports - 13.5 percent in the last year and 29.2 percent in the month of March."

Mr Robertson says that shows the danger of having a one-trick economy.

"While value-added exports such as pharmaceutical products, optical and medical equipment and electrical equipment all rose, they are far too small compared to dairy to offset the problems in the rural sector," he said.

Mr Robertson says the Government set a goal in 2012 to increase exports from 30 percent of GDP to 40 percent by 2025.

"The reality is that as a country we are going backwards and exports are just 29 percent of GDP."

But Trade Minister Todd McClay says Labour's numbers are wrong.

He says the figures released are for goods trade only.

They are only around 70 percent of our exports, with services making up the other 30 percent. Total trade figures, covering goods and services, will be out in June.

"Mr Robertson will find that the very export rebalancing that he claims he is concerned about, is occurring."