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Fruit drives bigger trade surplus

NZN 25/05/2016 Paul McBeth

New Zealand posted a bigger-than-expected trade surplus in April as increased volumes of gold kiwifruit and apples drove up shipments of fruit, the country's fourth-biggest export product.

The trade surplus of $292 million in April was more than the $60m expected in a Reuters poll of economists and wider than the $184m reported a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said.

Exports rose 4 per cent to $4.3 billion and imports were up 1.5 per cent at $4.01b.

Sales of fruit rose 16 per cent to $418m in April from the same month a year earlier, led by a 53 per cent jump in sales of gold kiwifruit, while apple exports rose 29 per cent in value terms.

Annual fruit exports climbed 33 per cent to $2.42b, the fastest pace among the country's 12 export commodities that achieve sales of at least $1b.

Kiwifruit marketing firm Zespri International on Wednesday reported record sales volumes for green and sungold kiwifruit varieties which helped deliver a 21 per cent increase in revenue to $1.9b.

Milk powder, butter and cheese exports fell 6.7 per cent to $818 million for a 12 per cent annual drop to $11.22b, while casein and caseinates exports slumped by a third in April for a 9.5 per cent annual decline to $1.03b.

Dairy products account for about a quarter of New Zealand's $49b of annual exports and are seen as a key indicator for New Zealand's economy.

Fonterra's board is expected to deliver its opening forecast for the 2017 farmgate milk price soon and economists predict the price will be at least 50 cents higher per kilogram of milk solids than this season.

The annual trade deficit was $3.66b, less than the $3.94b expected by economists, but a bigger shortfall than the $2.66b deficit in the same period a year earlier.

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