Dairy exports were worth $16.2 billion in the year to March 30 making it the country’s top goods export, while tourism was the top services export at $15.9b, StatsNZ international statistics senior manager Peter Dolan said.
Diary exports were up $396 million, while tourism plunged $239m as borders closed during the coronavirus crisis compared to the year to December 30.
“This fall is an early sign of the impact of Covid-19 on travel service exports,” Dolan said.
Dairy exports boosted New Zealand’s trade surplus to $3.5 billion, up $1b on the surplus last in the year to December 30.
“International students and visitors faced travel restrictions in the first three months of 2020, especially those coming from China in February, before the border closed to almost all but returning New Zealanders in late March.
“We will see the full impact of the border closure on tourism and travel services in the coming quarters. We already know that many students didn’t get to New Zealand for the start of the academic year and all visitor arrivals stopped in late March.
“That will see exports of travel services drop sharply, until the border is reopened,” he said.
For the first time in nearly five years dairy products had held up total exports, and had overtaken travel exports in revenue, he said.
Dairy and travel were key earners for the economy, which when combined made up over a third of New Zealand’s economy, Dolan said.
However, during the 1990s and 2000s tourism earned more for the country than dairy products. However, between 2010 and 2014 a boom in dairy export income took over from tourism.
As dairy prices and export earnings fell towards the end of 2014, travel took off again as visitor numbers continued to rise, he said.
“The popularity of New Zealand as both a tourist destination and a place to study has meant travel services have been our top export earner since the June 2015 year, but that ended in the March 2020 year,” Dolan said.
Travel service exports were made up of spending by international holidaymakers, people travelling for business and the tuition fees and living expenses of international students studying in New Zealand.
The fall in travel service exports in the March 2020 year was mainly due to a fall in education travel services, down $148m compared with the December 2019 year. This was followed by a fall in other personal travel, down $106m, he said.