Export prices down, but not by as much as you'd think

New Zealand export prices are down, but not by as much as you'd think considering the depth of the global downturn, according to an economist.

New Zealand's GDP fell 12.2 percent in the June quarter - the biggest drop ever recorded, by far - and our biggest trading partners fared badly too, as the coronavirus pandemic swept the world.

ANZ's latest Commodity Price Index report shows just a 6.4 percent drop in prices for our exports overall. 

Dairy prices eased slightly, gains in skim milk and cheese prices offset by drops in whole milk powder and butter. Meat prices fell too, with less demand because people overseas in pandemic-hit countries aren't dining out. Apple exporters have also struggled.

New Zealand's drop is more than twice as big as that suffered by the World Price Index, down 3 percent. 

"It's average news, but in the current environment, all things considered, it's hellishly good news," economist Cameron Bagrie told The AM Show on Tuesday.

New Zealand is heavily dependent on exports, and supplies the world with an outsized share of agricultural products and dairy. 

"During the global financial crisis world commodity prices of the stuff that we sell were down 30 percent," said Bagrie. 

"During the [1997] Asian crisis, down 15 percent. During the 1990-1991 global recession, down 20-25 percent. 

"So at the moment the performance of what's called the soft commodity basket - dairy, meat et al -  they've remained remarkably resilient, considering the global environment we reside in."

World prices on the ANZ Commodity Price Index fell about 33 percent during the global financial crisis, 15 percent during the Asian financial crisis and 20 percent during the 1991 recession - closely matching how the New Zealand index has tracked. 

The previous biggest quarterly fall in New Zealand's GDP came in 1991, when it contracted 2.4 percent.