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NZ trade surplus misses expectations

Friday 24th May 2013

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New Zealand's trade surplus in April was smaller than expected as a rise in petroleum imports more than offset increasing meat exports after farmer culled their livestock during this year's drought.

New Zealand's export receipts outpaced imports by $157 million in April for an annual deficit of $694 million, according to Statistics New Zealand. That's smaller than the monthly surplus of $475 million forecast in a Reuters survey of economists, and less than half the $337 million surplus in April last year.

Imports rose 7.4 percent to $3.8 billion from the same month a year earlier, led by a 46 percent jump in petroleum and products to $751 million. That's higher than the $3.64 billion forecast in the Reuters survey.

"The value of goods imported rose on the back of petroleum imports, which can fluctuate depending on the timing of shipments" industry and labour statistics manager Louise Holmes-Oliver said in a statement. "The trade surplus has compared with the previous four April months."

The value of exports were 2.2 percent higher than a year earlier at $3.95 billion, with an 11 percent gain in meat and edible offal sales to $559 million as more livestock was slaughtered with farmers culling their herds during the drought across the North Island this year.

Cattle slaughtered for export rose to 841,000 in the three months ended April 30 from 677,000 a year earlier, while lamb slaughtered climbed to 8.42 million from 7.2 million and sheep slaughter increased to 9.8 million from 8.7 million. Meat exports are up 8.2 percent to $1.77 billion in the three months ended April 30.

New Zealand meat was yesterday cleared for entry into China after an administrative error during the merger of several departments into the Ministry for Primary Industries confused Chinese officials who had previously approved its entry.

Exports into China rose 26 percent to $654 million last month from a year earlier, lagging behind Australian receipts at $727 million in the month, though ahead in the three months ended April 30. The world's most populous nation has become increasingly important to New Zealand exporters and receipts have tripled since the nations signed a free trade agreement in 2008.

Dairy products including milk powder, butter and cheese and casein and caseinates accounted for $12.36 billion, or 27 percent, of New Zealand's annual $46.25 billion in exports. The seasonally adjusted volume of milk powder, butter and cheese has fallen in three of the past four months this year, as the drought stymied supply, and pushed up global dairy prices.

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