New Zealand's exports to China rose 45 percent last year thanks to soaring demand for milk powder, supplanting Australia as New Zealand's top export market for the first time on an annual basis.

Figures released Friday by Statistics New Zealand show that in 2013, China imported $8.1 billion worth of New Zealand goods, up from $5.6 billion the previous year. About 40 percent of those imports were of milk powder.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's exports to Australia were down 8 percent at $7.5 billion and exports to the U.S. were down 4 percent at $3.3 billion. Exports to South Korea and Singapore grew.

The strong demand from China has helped boost New Zealand's economic growth to 3.5 percent, stronger than in most developed nations.

New Zealand's central bank said this week it intends to begin raising interest rates soon in order to keep inflation and a heated housing market in check.

New Zealand posted a slim trade deficit for the year after exporting a total $39.4 billion worth of goods and importing $39.5 billion. New Zealand imported more goods from China than any other country.