New Zealand has recorded a trade deficit in January, reflecting a larger-than-expected decline in exports led by dairy products, while imports rose.
The monthly deficit was $305 million, making an annual trade gap of $1.3 billion, according to Statistics New Zealand.
That compares to the forecast in a Reuters survey of a $100m surplus.
Exports fell to $3.35b from $4.07b a month earlier and compared to $3.65b in the Reuters survey. Imports rose to $3.65b from $3.58b.
"The deterioration in the January trade balance was in part payback for its surprising bounce in the previous month," said Michael Gordon, economist at Westpac Banking Corp.
"We still expect a modest pickup in export earnings over this year, as the impact of higher world dairy prices has yet to flow through."
Australia remained the biggest destination for New Zealand goods, though the value of shipments fell about 13 percent to $635m in January from the same month last year, while in the 12 months they fell 9.8 percent to $9.8b.
China remained in second place, with exports rising 3.1 percent to $647m in the month and jumping 14 percent to $6.88b in the year.
Exports of milk powder, butter and cheese fell 16 percent to $1.1b in January from the same month of 2012 and fell 7.7 percent to $11.2b in the 12 months ended January 31.
Meat exports rose 9.6 percent to $447m in the month for a 4.8 percent annual decline to $5.2b.
Logs and wood exports rose 6.4 percent to $187m in the month for an annual decline of 0.8 percent to $3.2b, while crude oil shipments tumbled 43 percent in the month to $81m and were down 19 percent to $1.8b in the year.
China remained the biggest source of New Zealand imports, with monthly incoming shipments falling 1.3 percent to $631m for an annual gain of 2.3 percent to $7.7b. Imports from Australia rose six per cent to $499m in the month and fell 1.8 percent to $7.2b in the year.