New Zealand ran a trade deficit of $305 million in January, as export returns fell sharply, especially for dairy products and crude oil.
Exports have been trending down in recent months and are now about 5 per cent down on a peak in late 2011.
The deficit for January was equal to 9.1 per cent of exports, compared with an average deficit of just 1.8 per cent of exports in the previous five January months.
Statistics New Zealand figures show exports were worth $3.3 billion in January, down 10 per cent on the same month last year
Falling prices for milk powder, butter and cheese and a drop in crude oil has seen the value of total exports drop by $378 million in January, compared with a year ago.
After accounting for usual seasonal changes, exports fell 15 per cent between December 2012 and January this year, again led by lower sales of milk powder, butter and cheese.
Imports were also down compared with a year ago, but not as much.
Imports fell $234m or by 6 per cent to $3.7 billion. The previous January was boosted by large capital goods imports, which accounted for the fall in January this year.
Seasonally adjusted imports rose 1.6 per cent in January 2013, Statistics NZ said.
The trend for exports appears to have been declining in recent months, and is 5.0 per cent lower than its highest peak, which was in November 2011. The trend for imports has been declining since July 2012, after a period of no change.