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Despite an "Ironclad" Improvement to National Goods Exports in March, Challenges Remain For Queensland

6 May 2021 9:20 AM | Dr Marcus Smith (Administrator)

The Australian Bureau of Statistics International Trade in Goods and Services release for March, 2021 shows some interesting trends within national and Queensland merchandise exports one year on from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.

The March print showed that national exports of goods for the month of March was the highest on record at $36,246 billion with an increase of almost $4.6 billion on February's exports, which is around $703 million higher than at March last year.

Due to the global pandemic, however, total annual national goods exports of $371.267 billion over the twelve months from April 2020 to March 2021 was -$19.961 billion down on the previous twelve-month period.

Annual exports in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries over this period are down -$4.209 billion (-8.4%), predominantly as a result of falls in beef and other meat as well as other key exports including wool, edible products and preparations, live animals and fruit and nuts. On the other hand, exports of wheat, barley, vegetables as well as oils seeds and oleaginous fruits were each up on last year.

Exports within the largest sector of Minerals and Fuels were down -$12.006 billion (-4.7%). While there has been substantial increases in the value of iron ore exports out of Western Australia this year and a rise in copper ore, other key exports including coal, natural gas, aluminium ore and petroleum have all fallen considerably. Exports of non-monetary gold also rose over the year, which has been included here, but its value is captured in the Other Goods category.

National exports of Manufactures fell substantially over the year by -$8.815 billion (-15.8%) with copper and zinc products the only two key categories showing growth.

It is interesting to note that across the various export sectors over the past five years, exports of Minerals and Fuels has grown as a proportion of total national exports, while exports within the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Manufactures sectors have both fallen. 

At the state level only exports by destination are included in the ABS merchandise monthly trade statistics, with the itemised accounts by state only provided annually by financial year. Accordingly, despite improving over the past few months, annual Queensland goods exports were down -$22.728 billion (-27.9%) from the previous twelve-month period to March.

Coal and natural gas exports represent by far the greatest value in export items for Queensland and falls in exports markets were consistently large across all key trading partners.

It has clearly been a difficult year for the state's resource exports given the relative magnitude of the annual decreases. This will undoubtedly mount significant pressure on the Queensland state budget if things don't improve with respect to reductions in royalty payments for coal, LNG and petroleum paid to the Queensland Government.

Finally, despite a substantial fall in state exports to China over the year where it has fallen from representing over one-third of total exports to now under thirty per cent, China remains Queensland's largest trading partner in goods. 

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