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High dollar causing trade deficit: Labour

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/09/2016

New Zealand's trade deficit has widened to the biggest monthly gap since September 2014, and Labour says exports are being hit by the the high value of the dollar.

Dairy and meat exports slumped in August, and the deficit for the month of $1.27 billion was larger than the deficit of $351 million in July and $1.09b in the same month a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said.

Exports sank 8.7 per cent to $3.39b from August 2015, outpacing a 3.1 per cent fall in imports to $4.65b.

Labour's finance spokesman, Grant Robertson, says the August figure is nearly twice the level expected by forecasters.

Clearly, the high Kiwi dollar is hurting our exporters," he said.

"But (Reserve Bank governor) Graeme Wheeler is seriously constrained in lowering the dollar by the out of control housing market.

"National's failure to contain rising house prices is creating the conditions for lower exports and higher imports."

The latest statistics show the country's two biggest export commodities dropped by more than a fifth in August, with milk powder, butter and cheese exports down 22 per cent to $475 million in August, and meat and edible offal exports sinking 26 per cent to $317m.

Fruit exports, which have been propped up by record sales of kiwifruit, fell 11 per cent to $241m.

Logs, wood and wood articles helped offset the decline, rising 24 per cent to $399m.

"The large fall in export value this month comes off the back of high export volumes in the June quarter," international statistics senior manager Stuart Jones said.

The New Zealand dollar has climbed 6.4 per cent on a trade-weighted basis since the start of June, making local goods more expensive on international markets.

On an annual basis, annual exports slipped 0.5 per cent to $47.8 billion and imports fell 1 per cent to $51.93 billion to post a trade deficit of $3.13 billion.

China was the country's biggest trading partner, accounting for about 19 per cent of two-way trade.

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