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2020-21 A Tough Year for Queensland Exporters as Trade Values Slump

15 Aug 2021 1:20 PM | Dr Marcus Smith

Annual merchandise trade itemised accounts released this month by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show that the freight on board value of Queensland's merchandise exports tumbled by around -$18.248 billion (-23.9%) since last financial year to $58.001 billion in 2020-21, which is the lowest level in five years.

The collapse was driven by a significant fall in the value of major export items including coal, gas, beef, copper ore and aluminium ore.

It was not bad news for all exporters, however, with a good year recorded for manufacturing exports including copper products and fertiliser as well as agricultural shipments of wheat, other cereals and vegetables.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries exports fell by -$910.897 million (-9.5%) over the year. The dip in export value over the last financial year was predominantly due to a decrease in beef exports following the elevated levels observed last year.

Accordingly, beef exports fell -$1.346 billion (-21.6%) to around $4.873 billion.

Conversely, the value of exports of wheat was up substantially by +$376.577 million on last year, with other cereal grains also increasing by +$153.302 million (+454.5%) and vegetables exports rose +$140.004 million (+40.7%) to $484.232 million.

Resources sector exports fell substantially over the year. LNG is not itemised, but it is the major item recorded in the confidential items of trade category.

Combining the Mineral and Fuels as well as the Confidential Items and non-monetary gold items reported in the Other Items category, the value of total exports fell by -$17.74 billion to $40.66 billion.

Coal exports (comprised of both metallurgical and thermal coal) fell sharply for the second year running by over -$10.074 billion (-33.5%) to $20.009 billion, while the value of confidential items exported also fell sharply over the year by around -$7.162 billion (-30.2%) to $16.531 billion.

The manufacturing sector was a mixed bag as usual, having by far the largest number of sub-categories. While the sector grew by +$395.444 billion (+4.9%) to almost $8.468 billion, however, this was largely due to a couple of standout manufacturing industries.

Exports of copper products increased by +$424.580 million (+22.8%) to $2.288 billion, while shipments of fertiliser increased by +$131.468 million (+60.6%) to $348.278 million.

Conversely, there were declines across other items including aluminium products, civil engineering equipment, air and space craft parts, ships and boats, mechanical handling equipment and medicaments. 

Breakdowns of exports by key destination for the 2020-21 financial year show
large falls in shipments to most major trading partners over the year including China -$13.458 billion (-48.8%), Japan -$2.038 billion, South Korea -$1.054 billion, Taiwan -$773 million, and Malaysia -$691 million, with modest increases to India +$255 million, Vietnam +$46 million and Indonesia +$42 million.

Despite the large fall in exports to China, it remains by far the state's largest export partner at 24.3% of total merchandise exports.

The largest fall in commodity exports to China during 2020-21 were shipments of coal -$8.159 billion, confidential items (predominantly LNG) -$4.363 billion, beef -$769.632 million, copper ores -$313.536 million and aluminium ores -$233.725 million.

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