New Zealand's imports fell by $7.4 billion in 2020 - the biggest annual fall since 2009 - due to Covid-19, Stats NZ said.
November and December saw record numbers with large falls in imports but exports holding their own, resulting in an annual trade surplus of $2.9b.
ASB Bank said the annual merchandise trade surplus remained close to record highs.
"We expect merchandise trade will remain in surplus over the next couple of years, though the influence of global recovery on New Zealand's exports and timing of an anticipated recovery in New Zealand import demand remain highly uncertain," the bank said in a commentary.
Annual imports started to drop away in the early stages of 2020, as the pandemic spread, affecting cargo supply lines and factory production around the world, Stats NZ's international trade manager Alasdair Allen said.
New Zealand imported much less fuel as international travel dried up, and the lockdown meant less travel within the country too, Allen said.
Car imports also fell sharply after the lockdown when non-essential businesses closed, including car yards.
Imports of petroleum and products fell $2.4b in 2020, following Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Imports of vehicle, parts, and accessories also fell, by $2.1b.
In contrast to the sharp drop in imports, annual exports were relatively unchanged in 2020, up $24 million to $60b in the year to December.
Exports of breathing equipment - respiratory equipment - were up $526m, due to high demand during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fruit exports rose $525m, driven by higher volumes and prices for kiwifruit.
Aircraft and parts rose $435m, as planes were sent to the United States for storage during the slump in international travel.