Manufacturing boomed in the December quarter, as meat and dairy manufacturing production volumes jumped up 15 per cent, but gains were modest in other sectors.
Economists said the strong run in meat and dairy volumes reflected the rundown in inventories as production from the previous quarter was sold.
Actual monthly milk and meat-slaughter figures showed a small decline in production in the last three months of 2013, ASB economists said.
The total volume of manufacturing sales jumped a record 5.7 per cent in the December quarter.
Westpac bank economists said there was a "solid lift" in manufacturing sales, partly met through a rundown of stocks, but still suggesting strong production growth.
But stripping out the impact of the rundown in inventories, Westpac estimated that manufacturing production rose about 2 per cent in the December quarter, mostly due to higher food production, with non-food manufacturing up less than 1 per cent.
Building-related manufacturing sectors were generally positive, as the Canterbury rebuild hits top gear, ANZ economists said.
The latest manufacturing figures were in line with Westpac's estimates that the economy grew 0.9 per cent in the quarter, with official figures due on March 20.
The figures confirmed earlier trade figures showing that dairy production had rebounded to pre-drought levels by the September quarter.
Surveys of the manufacturing sector have been upbeat.
Recent BNZ-Business New Zealand surveys have shown the manufacturing sector in expansion for the past 16 months, riding on the growing house-building boom in Canterbury and Auckland and supported by strong consumer confidence.
Manufacturing had grown despite the strong headwinds of a high New Zealand dollar, trading at US84.6c and A93.4c yesterday.
"The large meat and dairy volume increase is also seen in export volume rises for dairy and meat products," Statistics NZ industry and labour statistics manager Blair Cardno said.
Recent trade figures showed a 23 per cent lift in dairy export volumes and a 5.5 per cent gain in meat exports.
The sales volume for all manufacturing, excluding meat and dairy, was up 0.9 per cent, after a 2.9 per cent increase in the September quarter.
Sales for eight of the other 12 manufacturing industries rose - transport equipment, and machinery and equipment manufacturing by 5.9 per cent and fruit, oil, cereal, and other food manufacturing by 5 per cent.
In current prices, the total manufacturing sales value rose 6.3 per cent ($1.5 billion). Meat and dairy product manufacturing increased 18 per cent ($1.3b).
BY THE PER CENT
Volume of all manufacturing: Up 5.7 per cent
Meat and dairy volumes: Up 15 per cent
Manufacturing excluding meat and dairy: Up 0.9 per cent
Transport equipment, machinery and equipment manufacturing: Up 5.9 per cent
Fruit, oil, cereal and other food: Up 5 per cent
Value of manufacturing sales: Up 6.3 per cent ($1.5 billion)
Meat and dairy values: Up 6.2 per cent ($1.4 billion)
Source: Statistics NZ