You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Annual imports from China reached a record of $10 billion, up $1.6 billion, or 19%, for the year ended September, Statistics New Zealand said yesterday.
Releasing the latest trade balance figures, Statistics NZ international statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said total goods imports reached $52billion, the highest for a 12-month period.
Monthly imports from China topped $1 billion for the first time in September, up 22%, or $193 million, to $1.1 billion, compared with September last year.
Total monthly imports, excluding large import items, in September 2015 were up 8.1% to $4.9 billion, compared with September last year.
''The value of imports from China has increased across most commodities for the last 12 months. Mobile phones and laptops led the increase, up a quarter of a billion dollars.''
Annual two-way trade (imports plus exports) with China had been increasing since June this year and was now at $18 billion, despite dairy exports driving a 26% fall in total exports to China for the past 12 months, Mr Attewell said.
ASB senior economist Jane Turner said the trade balance was weaker than expected, largely due to lower exports.
Much of the weakness was due to the fall in dairy exports.
The trend in non-dairy exports remained encouraging, but the recent lift in the value of the New Zealand dollar could undermine the recovery.
''There are no implications for the Reserve Bank decision this week. While we expect the Reserve Bank will leave the OCR unchanged at Thursday's review, we actually believe the Reserve Bank should cut the OCR.''
Weak dairy production and export volumes highlighted the direct drag the sector would have on the economy, she said.
The much weaker value of exports in September appeared to be concerning.
However, if dairy was put aside, the trend in other exports remained encouraging, Ms Turner said.
Fruit and fish did drop significantly in the month but that followed two months of very strong growth.
The weak result in September was likely to be down to timing.
Meat exports held on to gains made in recent months. Meat exports were up 13% over the quarter.
Exports of manufactured goods also continued to grow strongly.
The fall in dairy exports in September was largely due to a drop in volumes, probably reflecting falling New Zealand production, she said.
Forecasts for dairy production this year were bleak and would be a significant drag on economic growth this year.
For the September quarter, dairy volumes increased 11% due to strong export volumes in July.
As such, the weakness in the September month would be more apparent in December quarter figures, Ms Turner said.
Import trends were encouraging, indicating robust domestic demand.
In particular, the September lift in plant and machinery imports was encouraging, given the background of falling business confidence.
Some of the recent lift in imports was due to a weaker dollar last month, she said.
At a glance
Exports rose 6.4% to $12.9billion.
Milk powder, butter and cheese led the rise, up 9.8%.
Imports rose 9.2% to $13.9billion, led by aircraft.
The trade deficit was $1 billion, 7.9% of exports.
Exports rose 2% to $3.7 billion, led by beef.
Imports fell 1.3% to $4.9 billion.
The trade deficit was $1.2billion, 33% of exports.
The annual trade deficit was $3.2 billion, 6.6% of exports.