The biggest increase in monthly fuel imports for five years saw total imports in March 2018 rise 14 percent to $4.9 billion, Stats NZ said.
Imports rose $612 million from March 2017, mainly driven by imports of crude oil, petrol and diesel, aircraft, computers, and tractors. Imports have risen every month since December 2016.
Petroleum and products rose $297 million (88 percent) to $634 million in March 2018, the largest increase since a $453 million rise in December 2013. Crude oil rose $198 million, while petrol and diesel rose $94 million in March 2018. The imports value of crude oil in March 2017 was the lowest since the February 2009 month.
“The rise in crude oil imports for the March 2018 month came mainly from the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said. “While the rise in petrol and diesel imports came mainly from Korea.”
Monthly imports of petroleum and products tend to move up and down; however, annual imports reached $5.7 billion in the year to March 2018, a rise of 24 percent. Petroleum and products is New Zealand’s third-largest import commodity, behind vehicles and parts, and mechanical machinery.
Milk powder, butter, and cheese lead exports rise
Exports rose $265 million (5.8 percent) to $4.9 billion in March 2018 compared with March 2017, led by increases in butter and untreated logs.
The total value of butter exports rose $95 million (76 percent) to $221 million, with quantity up 47 percent compared with the same month of the previous year. Butter exports to Iran rose $36 million, and to China rose $23 million.
“International auction prices for butter rose sharply in 2017, buoyed by rising consumer demand and a shift away from margarine. Butter prices dipped late in the year, but have since bounced back to levels near their recent peaks,” Mr Islam said.
Forestry products rose $70 million (18 percent) to $460 million, led by a rise in untreated logs to China (up $54 million).
Milk powder values were little changed in the month (up 0.8 percent), and the quantity exported rose 16 percent. Rising milk powder exports to Algeria (up $32 million) and Viet Nam (up $30 million) were offset by a fall in exports to China (down $52 million).
Imports rose much more than exports, leading to a March month trade deficit of $86 million (1.8 percent of exports). This is the first deficit for a March month since 2008.
Source: Stats NZ