New Zealand said its economy grew at its fastest rate in five years in the January-March quarter, boosted by strong performances in the farming and manufacturing sectors. The 1.1 increase, more than double forecasts of 0.5 percent, meant the economy expanded 1.7 percent in the year to March, compared with 1.5 percent in the previous 12 months, Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) said on Thursday. It was the strongest quarterly performance since March 2007 and sparked a sharp rise in the New Zealand dollar, which was up 0.47 US cents to 80.06 cents. \"On the face of it, it was a blistering good number,\" HiFX senior trader Stuart Ive told Dow Jones Newswires. \"It is obviously good news for the Kiwi. The economy is perhaps a little bit more robust than those in the northern hemisphere at the moment.\" New Zealand\'s economy has struggled to gain momentum following a recession in 2009 and last year\'s devastating Christchurch earthquake, which claimed 185 lives. A huge rebuilding programme in Christchurch is expected to eventually drive growth but most analysts had tipped a subdued economic performance in the short term, particularly amid the eurozone\'s ongoing crisis. Finance Minister Bill English said that while quarterly figures tended to fluctuate, the latest data showed New Zealand was faring better than most other developed countries. \"Today\'s numbers confirm moderate underlying strength in the economy, despite the uncertain international mood and difficulties in Europe in particular,\" he said in a statement. Manufacturing -- blamed for the economy\'s disappointing growth in the December quarter -- bounced back for a 1.8 percent increase in the three months to March, largely due to a lift in primary food manufacturing. SNZ national accounts manager Rachael Milicich said there was consistent growth across most of the economy. \"This quarter we saw growth spread across a number of industries, while in previous quarters the industry picture had been more mixed with growth in some industries offset by falls in others,\" she said. Agriculture was up 2.3 percent as milk production lifted in New Zealand, the world\'s largest dairy exporter. \"Continued good growing conditions have been a major factor in the growth this quarter and is reflected in both the milk production in agriculture and in meat and dairy manufacturing,\" Milicich said.