Kiwifruit gives March exports a golden glow despite COVID-19

The kiwifruit industry is expecting a record harvest.
The kiwifruit industry is expecting a record harvest. Photo credit: File

New figures show exports hit a new high in March 2020, driven by kiwifruit, dairy, and meat, even as the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world.

Stats NZ said the value of total goods exports rose $215 million (3.8 percent) from March 2019 to reach $5.8 billion in March 2020. 

This was a record for any month with the previous high was in May 2019.

The increase in total goods exports reflected a bumper kiwifruit harvest and higher prices for milk powder and meat. 

The rise was partly offset by a fall in log exports, particularly to China, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"This month's total goods exports were up on the same month of 2019, led by fruit exports, especially gold kiwifruit," said international statistics manager Darren Allan.

The value of fruit exports rose $115 million (54 percent) this month, mainly due to gold kiwifruit. 

Gold kiwifruit exports were worth $187 million, up $105 million from last March, as quantities doubled. China, the European Union, and Japan received more than three-quarters of all gold kiwifruit exports in March 2020.

"The kiwifruit industry is expecting a record harvest and reports strong demand from markets in North Asia," said Allan.

The kiwifruit export season runs from March to November.

Partly offsetting these rises were falls in forestry products, down $185 million (or 35 percent). This decrease reflected a fall in untreated logs to China, which was quantity driven.

Export values of dairy products (up $106 million or 7.6 percent) and meat (up $102 million or 11 percent) also contributed to the total rise in March 2020. These increases in values were led by milk powder (up $132 million) sheep meat (up $62 million) and beef (up $49 million).

Compared with March 2019, unit prices were up for milk powder (up 33 percent) sheep meat (up 9.0 percent) and beef (up 10 percent).

Stats NZ said exports to China fell in March 2020 when compared with March 2019, down $87 million to $1.4 billion. 

This fall was due to untreated logs, down $173 million. The fall in exports to China was partly offset by rises in milk powder, infant formula, and gold kiwifruit.

Exports to China have fallen two months in a row compared with the same period last year.

Imports from China also fell, down $83 million from last year to $714 million in March 2020. 

This fall was across a range of commodities, including furniture, electrical machinery and equipment, vehicles, and clothing.

Imports from China have fallen three months in a row compared with the same period last year.