A $41 million increase in goods exported in February compared with the same month last year was matched by a $40m increase in imports.
The net result is a merchandise (goods) trade deficit of $714m that remains close to record levels. In the same month last year, the deficit was $715m.
February is typically a month in which New Zealand registers a trade surplus, but for the past two years that has been reversed.
It follows last week’s release of balance of trade statistics, showing a deficit of 8.9% of gross domestic product, the largest since the series began in 1988. Balance of payments captures all cross-border payments, while merchandise trade tracks only goods.
There was an increase of 0.8% in exports. A re-opened China helped to drive this, with an extra $100m in exports heading there in February compared with the same month in 2022.
This increase was entirely attributable to the $107m increase in exports from the milk, cereals, flour and starch category, which includes infant formula.
All other major trading partners took more exports, except the European Union, which was down by 5.3%.
Increases in dairy and wine were partly offset by a big decrease in meat exports, which fell by $200m or 21%.
There was a big drop-off in imports from China, which were down by $340m compared with February 2022.
All other major trading partners increased their imports.
Petrol products were the biggest driver compared with last year, up by $190m or 37%.
Petrol prices in February 2022 were largely unaffected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has resulted in large price increases.