Spending by Chinese visitors helped offset plunging dairy prices to give New Zealand a slight trade surplus last year, the government statistics agency.
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Total exports of goods and services were valued at 69.3 billion NZ dollars ($45.99 billion) in 2015, while imports totaled 66.9 billion NZ dollars ($44.4 billion), according to Statistics New Zealand.
Total exports rose 1.9 billion NZ dollars ($1.26 billion) from 2014, driven by a rise of 2.3 billion NZ dollars ($1.53 billion) in spending by international visitors and an increase of 895 million NZ dollars ($594.1 million) in exports of meat products, while the value of dairy exports fell by 3 billion NZ dollars ($1.99 billion).
"Although dairy exports were lower across the year, it has remained our top export earner. However, earnings from other export industries and markets have increased in significance, picking up the shortfall in dairy," international statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said in a statement.
The growth in earnings from meat and travel was driven by key export markets, including China, the United States, and the European Union (EU).
Spending on personal travel by visitors from China had increased 1.4 billion NZ dollars ($929.32 million) since 2011 to 2.2 billion NZ dollars ($1.46 billion) in 2015, while visitors from Australia, New Zealand's biggest tourism market, spent 1.9 billion NZ dollars ($1.26 billion) in 2015.
Last year, the EU was New Zealand's largest source of imports, totaling 12.1 billion NZ dollars ($8.03 billion), followed by Australia on 11.3 billion NZ dollars ($7.5 billion) and China on 10.4 billion NZ dollars ($6.9 billion).
New Zealand's largest import expense in 2015 was electrical machinery and equipment from China.
"The rise in electrical machinery and equipment was mostly due to consumer electronics such as mobile phones," Attewell said.
"In recent years, cars from Japan or the EU had been our top import." ■