Falling fuel prices helped lift New Zealand's terms of trade 3 per cent in the September quarter.

This means that 3 per cent more imported goods could be funded by a fixed quantity of exported goods than in the June quarter.

Export prices edged down 0.1 per cent, after rises of 3.7 per cent and 10.5 per cent in the June and March quarters respectively, Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) said today.

Prices for forestry product exports were down 4.1 per cent in the latest period, with fruit down 8.2 per cent, petroleum and petroleum products down 4.1 per cent, while dairy products rose 7.1 per cent.

Import prices fell 3 per cent in the September quarter, compared to rises of 1.7 per cent in the June quarter and 4.2 per cent in the March quarter.

Petroleum and petroleum import prices fell 7 per cent, mechanical machinery prices were down 2.8 per cent, and food and beverages fell 3.2 per cent.

Seasonally adjusted import volumes rose 3.7 per cent in the September quarter, the fifth consecutive quarterly rise, SNZ said.

Import volumes remained 10 per cent below the peak in the June 2008 quarter, but had recovered to levels last seen in late 2008.

Capital goods were the main contributor to the import volumes rise.

Seasonally adjusted export volumes fell 2.9 per cent in the September quarter, with meat, dairy, and forestry products the major contributors to the fall. Meat volumes were at their lowest level since the September 2002 quarter.