Imports of petroleum products and motor vehicles pushed total imports to $4.8 billion in May 2017, Stats NZ said.
Monthly imports were $635 million (15 percent) higher than for May 2016.
The leading contributor to the increase was petroleum products, up $269 million (71 percent), led by crude oil, up $127 million (65 percent) on 2016.
“Crude oil and other petroleum products are imported in large, irregular shipments, which can cause large percentage fluctuations in values,” international statistics senior manager Daria Kwon said.
“May 2017 increase in value is much higher than in recent times.”
Imports of motor vehicles and parts were up $135 million (22 percent) from May 2016 to reach $739 million in May 2017. The increase was led by passenger motor cars, up $87 million (23 percent) to $468 million.
Dairy boost for exports
Total export values were $5.0 billion in May 2017, up $395 million (8.7 percent) from May 2016.
The largest rise in export values was in the dairy commodity group, up $342 million (42 percent). Milk powder, butter, and cheese all rose at least 40 percent on a year earlier.
“Higher world prices for milk powder helped boost export values in recent months,” Ms Kwon said.
“Exports of dairy commodities to China led the increase in values.”
There were also smaller increases across other large export commodities, including beef and lamb, forestry, fruit, and wine.
Annual trade deficit widens
The annual trade deficit for the year ended May 2017 widened to $3.8 billion, from $3.6 billion in April 2017.
The trade surplus in May 2017 ($103 million or 2.1 percent of exports) was lower than the average surplus (5.7 percent of exports) in recent May months.
Source: Stats NZ