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5422.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia, Dec 2000  
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Feature Article - Major commodities traded by Australia, (1991 to 2000)


INTRODUCTION

This article examines the major commodities traded by Australia over the past decade. The article analyses trends in the trade in these commodities and assesses their relative importance.

The commodities are classified to the Standard International Trade Classification Rev. 3 (SITC Rev. 3), consistent with other commodity data included in this publication.

Value data included are in original terms and on a recorded trade basis. The series therefore reflect the influence of changes in both the quantity and price of goods traded. Tables 1 and 3 also include chain volume measures for total exports and imports, providing estimates of the changes in quantity, after the direct effects of price changes have been estimated.

For some major commodities, quantity data cannot be presented because some or all of their detailed components are recorded with different units of quantity, or none at all.

Confidentiality restrictions apply as in the rest of this publication. Where they do affect the data for the commodities selected, this is specifically noted in the text, though the impacts on the analyses are not considered to be significant.


TOTAL EXPORTS

Table 1 shows the value of Australia's exports for each calendar year of the decade, classified by SITC Section, and the proportion each contributed to the total value of exports.


1. AUSTRALIA'S MERCHANDISE EXPORTS - By Value and Percentage of total Australian Trade
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
Change from 1991 to 2000

SITC code and commodity
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
%

0 Food and live animals (a)
9,313
10,584
12,439
13,394
13,072
15,803
17,200
15,155
15,876
18,635
100
1 Beverages and tobacco
333
378
491
533
582
738
892
1,155
1,403
1,764
430
2 Crude materials, inedible, except fuels (a)
13,677
13,495
12,753
13,075
14,643
15,020
17,143
17,907
16,667
21,271
56
3 Mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials
10,881
11,613
11,980
10,674
11,977
13,001
14,966
15,078
14,462
23,110
112
4 Animal and vegetable oils, fats and waxes (a)
136
157
212
224
256
238
270
383
324
304
124
5 Chemicals and related products, n.e.s. (a)
1,533
1,817
2,185
2,468
2,908
3,000
3,216
3,388
3,854
4,706
207
6 Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material (a)
6,481
7,080
7,571
8,286
9,788
9,426
9,918
10,423
10,680
13,568
109
7 Machinery and transport equipment
4,867
5,719
7,018
7,603
9,164
9,957
11,323
10,653
10,988
12,469
156
8 Miscellaneous manufactured articles
1,428
1,777
1,998
2,233
2,495
2,812
3,054
3,344
3,624
4,161
191
9 Commodities and transactions not classified elsewhere in the SITC (b)
5,072
5,758
6,092
6,287
6,786
6,988
6,807
11,496
9,015
10,478
107
Total exports
53,720
58,378
62,739
64,776
71,671
76,983
84,790
88,985
86,893
110,465
106
Total exports - chain volume measures (c)
50,180
55,216
58,388
63,523
65,202
72,112
81,019
84,315
85,687
94,734
89

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

0 Food and live animals (a)
17.3
18.1
19.8
20.7
18.2
20.5
20.3
17.0
18.3
16.9
1 Beverages and tobacco
0.6
0.6
0.8
0.8
0.8
1.0
1.1
1.3
1.6
1.6
2 Crude materials, inedible, except fuels (a)
25.5
23.1
20.3
20.2
20.4
19.5
20.2
20.1
19.2
19.3
3 Mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials
20.3
19.9
19.1
16.5
16.7
16.9
17.6
16.9
16.6
20.9
4 Animal and vegetable oils, fats and waxes (a)
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.4
0.3
0.3
0.4
0.4
0.3
5 Chemicals and related products, n.e.s. (a)
2.9
3.1
3.5
3.8
4.1
3.9
3.8
3.8
4.4
4.3
6 Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material (a)
12.1
12.1
12.1
12.8
13.7
12.2
11.7
11.7
12.3
12.3
7 Machinery and transport equipment
9.1
9.8
11.2
11.7
12.8
12.9
13.3
12.0
12.6
11.3
8 Miscellaneous manufactured articles
2.7
3.0
3.2
3.4
3.5
3.7
3.6
3.8
4.2
3.8
9 Commodities and transactions not classified elsewhere in the SITC (b)
9.4
9.9
9.7
9.7
9.5
9.1
8.0
12.9
10.4
9.5

(a) Excludes commodities subject to a confidentiality restriction. These are included in SITC 9.
(b) Includes commodities subject to a confidentiality restriction.
(c) Source of chain volume measures (CVM) is Balance of Payments, Sept. quarter 2000 (Cat. no. 5302.0). Reference year for CVM is 1998-99. CVM figures are for financial years ended in the year shown.


Over the decade, the value of merchandise exports increased 106%. The increase in the volume of exports, after adjustment for price increases, was 89%. Three SITC Sections were the principal contributors to total exports over the decade: Food and live animals (SITC 0), Crude materials, inedible, except fuels (SITC 2) and Mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials (SITC 3).

During the decade, the contributions of Food and live animals (SITC 0) to total Australian exports grew, then fell, and Crude materials, inedible, except fuels (SITC 2) fell, while the contributions of all other SITC Sections rose, particularly for Machinery and transport equipment (SITC 7). The growth in value of Beverages and tobacco (SITC 1) of 430% is noteworthy, followed by exports of Chemicals and related products, nes (SITC 5), which increased 207%.


MAJOR EXPORT COMMODITIES

Table 2 shows for nine major 3 digit SITC Group export commodities, the value of their exports and share of Australia's export trade, at the beginning and end of the decade.


2. AUSTRALIA'S MAJOR EXPORT COMMODITIES
Commodity Share of Total Australian Exports
1991
2000
Selected SITC code & commodity
$m
%
$m
%

011 Meat of bovine animals
2,637
4.9
3,557
3.2
041 Wheat
1,621
3.0
3,812
3.5
268 Wool and other animal hair (a)
3,458
6.4
3,291
3.0
281 Iron ore and concentrates
2,893
5.4
4,438
4.0
285 Aluminium ores and concentrates (a)
2,442
4.5
4,125
3.7
321 Coal, not agglomerated
6,745
12.6
9,339
8.5
333 Crude petroleum oils
1,464
2.7
7,601
6.9
684 Aluminium
1,985
3.7
4,365
4.0
971 Gold, non-monetary
3,700
6.9
4,954
4.5

Total commodities above as a share of total exports
26,945
50.2
47,482
43.0

Total exports
53,720
110,465

(a) Excludes export commodities subject to a 'No Commodity Details' or a 'No Value Details' or a 'Broad Commodity Details' restriction.

Australia's exports throughout the decade were dominated by farm and mine. Wheat, petroleum and aluminium increased their relative shares over the period, while there were decreases in the relative shares for all other major commodities. In total, the contribution of the nine major commodities to total exports declined from 50.2% to 43.0%, indicating a small broadening of the export base over the decade i.e. less reliance on these major commodities.


BEEF


Value
Value

Quantity
Quantity




Exports of Meat of bovine animals (SITC 011), predominantly beef, dropped from 1993 to 1996 by 35% to $2,069 million. This decrease reflected growing competition from the USA, leading to lower prices for Australia's exports, as well as an appreciating Australian dollar. In the past four years the level of exports has improved. The reduction in US cow slaughterings and increased US prices of manufactured beef led to a greater demand for Australian beef from Japan and the USA, our major beef export markets. The weaker Australian dollar also contributed to the rise in the value of exports in the last year.


WHEAT

Value
Value

Quantity
Quantity




Exports of Wheat (SITC 041) fell 23% from 1994 to $1,765 million in 1995, due to drought conditions in eastern Australia. Wheat exports improved markedly after 1995 due to good Australian seasons and crop failures in the Northern Hemisphere late that year.


WOOL


Value
Value

Quantity
Quantity




Exports of Wool (SITC 268) fluctuated in value during the six years to 1997 before declining sharply. Wool markets in recent years have seen an excess of production over consumption, steadily declining world prices and strong competition between natural and synthetic fibres. Australia's wool exports increased 34% to $3,291 million in 2000, as a result of significant rises in prices during 2000.

Over the decade, the contribution of wool exports to Australia's total exports fell significantly, from 6.4% in 1991 to 3.0% in 2000. From September 1999, some data for wool exports are excluded from SITC 268, due to confidentiality restrictions. However the impact of this on the data presented is minimal.


IRON ORE AND COAL


Value (SITC 281)

Quantity (SITC 281)


Value (SITC 321)

Value (SITC 321)


Quantity (SITC 321)




Global demand from the steel industry directly affects Australia's exports of Iron ore (SITC 281) and Coal (SITC 321). Both commodities show troughs in 1994 and 1999 when the steel industry was depressed. Japan's financial recession was an additional adverse influence in 1999. Exports of iron ore and coal increase as the global steel market improves.

Over the decade, the contribution of iron ore exports to Australia's total exports decreased, from 5.4% in 1991 to 4.0% in 2000. Coal exports contributed between 12.3% and 12.6% of Australia's total exports from 1991 to 1993, before decreasing to 10.3% in 1994 and 8.5% in 2000.


ALUMINA AND ALUMINIUM


Value (SITC 28520)
Value (SITC 28520)

Quantity (SITC 28520)
Quantity (SITC 28520)


Value (SITC 285)



Quantity (SITC 285)
Quantity (SITC 285)


Aluminium ores, concentrates and oxides (SITC 285) comprises two commodities at the more detailed SITC 5 digit level. They are Aluminium ores and concentrates (SITC 28510) and Alumina (aluminium oxides) (SITC 28520). SITC 28510 is affected by a confidentiality restriction for the entire period and is excluded from the data analysis.

Exports of Alumina (SITC 28520) declined from 4.5% of total exports in 1991 to 3.2% in 1999, before recovering to 3.7% in 2000. The steep increase in the value of alumina exports in 2000 was due to a tightening in the balance of supply and demand, in addition to the lower value of the Australian dollar.

In addition to being the world's largest exporter of alumina, Australia is also a major producer and exporter of Aluminium (SITC 684). The value of Australia's aluminium exports grew steadily for most of the decade.

In 1995, the value increased sharply to $2,836 million, while the quantity exported remained steady, resulting in the highest average unit value recorded over the decade of $2.65 per kilogram. The increase resulted from strengthening demand, a fall in stocks and reduced production of aluminium. The steady increase since 1996 can be largely attributed to strengthening demand, especially in Asia.


CRUDE PETROLEUM


Value
Value

Quantity
Quantity



The value of Australia's exports of Crude petroleum (SITC 333) are significantly affected by movements in the international price for crude oil. Export prices were at their lowest in 1994 (an average unit value of $0.14 per litre) and at their highest in 2000 (an average unit value of $0.31 per litre). The very sharp rise in the value of exports in 2000 was due to a substantial rise in international oil prices, brought about by a tight supply demand situation, as well as some new Australian production and the weaker Australian dollar at the time.

Japan, the USA and Taiwan have been the major markets for Australia's exports over the decade. A more detailed analysis of Australia's exports and imports of crude petroleum was included in a feature article in the March quarter 2000 issue of International Merchandise Trade, Australia (Cat. no. 5422.0).


NON-MONETARY GOLD

Value
Value



The most substantial movement in exports of Non-monetary gold (SITC 971) occurred when the value of exports increased from $4,924 million in 1997 to $7,642 million in 1998, before dropping back to $4,808 million in 1999. During 1998 export values were boosted by large sales of non-monetary gold to Europe and the USA. Note that imports of non-monetary gold were higher at that time too and that only a proportion of exports are from domestic mining.


TOTAL IMPORTS

Table 3 shows the value of Australia's imports for each calendar year of the decade, classified by SITC Section, and the proportion each contributed to the total value of imports.


3. AUSTRALIA'S MERCHANDISE IMPORTS - By Value and Percentage of total Australian Trade
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
Change from 1991 to 2000

SITC code and commodity
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
$m
%

0 Food and live animals
2,001
2,144
2,386
2,581
2,944
2,920
3,190
3,662
3,842
4,082
104
1 Beverages and tobacco
389
414
453
499
504
512
543
588
673
797
105
2 Crude materials, inedible, except fuels (a)
1,196
1,424
1,548
1,649
1,750
1,511
1,559
1,623
1,625
2,043
71
3 Mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials
2,952
3,244
3,822
3,264
3,889
4,900
5,024
4,322
5,910
9,501
222
4 Animal and vegetable oils, fats and waxes (a)
140
174
197
210
252
265
271
269
286
282
101
5 Chemicals and related products, n.e.s. (a)
5,253
6,222
6,840
7,355
8,596
9,077
9,397
11,033
11,767
13,314
153
6 Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material (a)
7,579
8,438
9,138
10,017
11,349
10,611
11,530
13,020
12,928
14,171
87
7 Machinery and transport equipment (a)
21,883
23,736
27,491
31,429
36,395
36,809
38,698
44,330
47,801
54,425
149
8 Miscellaneous manufactured articles (a)
7,283
8,513
9,418
10,230
10,962
11,052
12,288
14,556
14,517
16,459
126
9 Commodities and transactions not classified elsewhere in the SITC (b)
998
1,199
1,109
864
829
753
918
3,369
2,167
1,848
85
Total imports
49,674
55,508
62,402
68,099
77,469
78,410
83,418
96,773
101,517
116,920
135
Total imports - chain volume measures (c)
49,717
51,881
56,207
60,086
71,474
74,521
82,636
92,763
98,427
112,212
126

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

0 Food and live animals
4.0
3.9
3.8
3.8
3.8
3.7
3.8
3.8
3.8
3.5
1 Beverages and tobacco
0.8
0.7
0.7
0.7
0.7
0.7
0.7
0.6
0.7
0.7
2 Crude materials, inedible, except fuels (a)
2.4
2.6
2.5
2.4
2.3
1.9
1.9
1.7
1.6
1.7
3 Mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials
5.9
5.8
6.1
4.8
5.0
6.2
6.0
4.5
5.8
8.1
4 Animal and vegetable oils, fats and waxes (a)
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.2
5 Chemicals and related products, n.e.s. (a)
10.6
11.2
11.0
10.8
11.1
11.6
11.3
11.4
11.6
11.4
6 Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material (a)
15.3
15.2
14.6
14.7
14.6
13.5
13.8
13.4
12.7
12.1
7 Machinery and transport equipment (a)
44.1
42.8
44.1
46.1
47.0
46.9
46.4
45.8
47.0
46.5
8 Miscellaneous manufactured articles (a)
14.7
15.3
15.1
15.0
14.2
14.1
14.7
15.0
14.3
14.1
9 Commodities and transactions not classified elsewhere in the SITC (b)
2.0
2.2
1.8
1.3
1.1
1.0
1.1
3.5
2.1
1.6

(a) Excludes commodities subject to a confidentiality restriction. These are included in SITC 9.
(b) Includes commodities subject to a confidentiality restriction.
(c) Source of chain volume measures (CVM) is Balance of Payments, Sept. quarter 2000 (Cat. no. 5302.0). Reference year for CVM is 1998-99. CVM figures are for financial years ended in the year shown.


Over the decade, the value of merchandise imports increased 135%. The increase in volume of imports, after adjustment for price increases, was 126%. Australia's merchandise imports were dominated by Machinery and transport equipment (SITC 7), which accounted for around 46% of total imports from 1994 onwards. Included in this SITC Section are motor vehicles and parts, computers, aircraft and telecommunication equipment.


MAJOR IMPORT COMMODITIES

Table 4 shows, for eleven major 3 digit SITC Group import commodities, the value of their imports and share of Australia's import trade, at the beginning and end of the decade.


4. AUSTRALIA'S MAJOR IMPORT COMMODITIES
Commodity Share of Total Australian Imports
1991
2000
Selected SITC code & commodity
$m
%
$m
%

333 Crude petroleum oils
1,531
3.1
7,318
6.3
334 Petroleum oils, not crude (i.e. refined)
1,238
2.5
1,767
1.5
542 Medicaments (incl. veterinary medicaments)
647
1.3
3,291
2.8
752 Austomatic data processing machines & units thereof
1,820
3.7
5,498
4.7
759 Parts and accessories for use with office & automatic data processing machines
1,317
2.7
2,518
2.2
764 Telecommunications equipment and parts
1,073
2.2
6,379
5.5
781 Passenger motor vehicles
2,235
4.5
7,841
6.7
782 Motor vehicles for the transport of goods
869
1.8
2,469
2.1
784 Parts and accessories of the motor vehicles
866
1.7
2,590
2.2
792 Aircraft and associated equipment
2,856
5.8
3,796
3.2
971 Gold, non-monetary (excl. gold ores and concentrates)
865
1.7
1,646
1.4
Total commodities above as a share of total imports
15,317
30.8
45,113
38.6
Total imports
49,674
116,920



Seven of the eleven groups selected are from SITC Section 7. Over the period, the total contribution of the eleven major commodities to total imports increased from 30.8% to 38.6%, indicating an increased overall importance of these commodities.

CRUDE PETROLEUM


Value
Value

Quantity
Quantity



There was a strong increase in the value of imports of Crude petroleum oil (SITC 333) from 1998 to 2000 due to increased international oil prices and a fall in the Australian dollar. This occurred despite a fall in the quantity of crude oil imported in 2000, due to Australia's increasing use of domestically produced crude petroleum oil.

The value of imports of crude petroleum oil increased as a proportion of total imports from 3.1% in 1991 to 6.3% in 2000. Australia's major import sources are Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Viet Nam, and Papua New Guinea.


REFINED PETROLEUM


Value
Value

Quantity
Quantity



The value of imports of Petroleum oil, not crude (SITC 334) slowly declined between 1991 and 1999, then rose to $1,767 million in 2000. This category mainly comprises refined petroleum oil. As a proportion of total imports, imports of refined petroleum oil decreased from 2.5% in 1991 to 1.5% in 2000.

Over the period from 1991 to 1999, the average unit value varied from $0.14 per litre to $0.19 per litre. In 2000 the average unit value rose to $0.32 per litre as a result of higher world prices and a weaker Australian dollar. However the quantities imported have generally declined over the decade, with 95% of the refined petroleum required by Australia now supplied by its own refineries. The major import sources are Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.


MEDICAMENTS

Value



Over the decade there has been a strong increase in imports of Medicaments (SITC 542), from 1.3% of total imports in 1991 to 2.8% in 2000. The category includes pharmaceuticals containing penicillin, antibiotics and insulin. The reason for the more rapid increase from 1998 to 2000 is the development and subsequent import of more expensive, specialised drugs.

The United Kingdom has maintained its position as Australia's main source of medicaments, accounting for between 22% and 31% of total imports. The USA, which was ranked as the sixth major source of these imports in 1991, increased its ranking to be the second major supplier with 18% of the market share in 2000. Germany is also a major supplier.


COMPUTERS AND PARTS

Value
Value



Imports of Automatic data processing machines (SITC 752) have increased steadily over the decade to $5,498 million in 2000. As a proportion of total imports, it has increased from 3.7% in 1991 to 4.7% in 2000. Items included in this category are personal computers, storage units (disk drives) and visual display units (monitors). The USA remains Australia's main source of automatic data processing machines, even though there has been a significant rise in imports from Singapore and Malaysia.

Although the value of Computer parts and accessories (SITC 759) imported has increased by 91% from $1,317 million in 1991 to $2,518 million in 2000, their importance as a proportion of total imports has decreased from 2.7% in 1991 to 2.2% in 2000. The USA has maintained its position as market leader, even though there has been an increase in competition from Asian countries. The main type of parts and accessories imported is computer hardware, such as motherboards and memory.


TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Value
Value



There has been a very large increase in imports of Telecommunications equipment and parts and accessories (SITC 764), particularly since 1998. By 2000, telecommunications equipment accounted for 5.5% of Australia's total imports, compared with only 2.2% in 1991. This can be attributed to the increased use of mobile phones, modems and apparatus for digital line systems and networks. The import of equipment used for establishing telecommunication systems between Australia and North America, South America and North Asia contributed to the increase. The main sources of these imports are USA, Japan, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom and Sweden.

ROAD VEHICLES


Value
Value

Quantity (SITC 781)
Quantity (SITC 781)



Passenger motor vehicles (SITC 781) has been the most significant import group, by value, since 1992. In 2000 it accounted for 6.7% of Australia's total imports, compared with 4.5% in 1991. Japan has remained Australia's major source of imported passenger motor vehicles over the decade, but its share of the market declined from 83% in 1991 to 60% in 2000. Germany and Korea increased their market shares over the decade.

The increase in the value of imports of passenger motor vehicles can be attributed to a decrease in the number of domestically produced models, growth in demand for small vehicles, reduction in tariff rates for imported cars and greater competition in the passenger motor vehicle market. The slowdown in 1999 can be attributed to both the Asian economic crisis and an oversupply of foreign made passenger motor vehicles in Australia.

Australia's imports of Motor vehicles for the transport of goods (SITC 782) have increased steadily over the decade, accounting for 1.7% of total imports in 1991 and 2.1% in 2000. Japan supplied 85% of these imports in 1991, but by 2000 this had decreased to 53%, with Germany and the USA increasing their market shares.

Imports of Motor vehicle parts and accessories (SITC 784) similarly increased steadily over the decade. As a proportion of total trade, there was an increase from 1.7% in 1991 to 2.2% in 2000. Japan was again the main supplier contributing 51% in 1991 and 48% in 2000.


AIRCRAFT

Value
Value



The value of Aircraft and associated equipment (SITC 792) imports fluctuated over the decade, due to the irregular demand for and the high price of new aircraft. From 1998, there has been an increase in imports due mainly to new airlines entering the domestic market. It should be noted, that aircraft which are imported under an operational lease are not included in merchandise imports.


NON-MONETARY GOLD

Value
Value



The value of imports of Non-monetary gold (SITC 971) showed a significant peak in 1998 due to large imports of non-monetary gold from Asia for processing in Australia and subsequent export, one of the consequences of the Asian economic crisis.


BALANCE OF TRADE

The graph below shows Australia's total exports and imports over the decade, with the balance of trade (exports less imports) also included.

BALANCE OF TRADE



Australia's exports increased by 106% and its imports increased by 135% over the decade. While there was a trade surplus at the beginning of the decade, for most of the decade Australia experienced a trade deficit. A weaker Australian dollar helped narrow this deficit in 2000.


ABBREVIATIONS USED

$mmillion dollars
t ('000)thousand tonnes
t (m)million tonnes
L (m)million litres
no. ('000)thousands


REFERENCE LIST
  • Australian Commodities Forecasts and Issues, ABARE
  • Australia in the World Gold Market, ABARE, 1999
  • State of the Australian Automotive Industry, 1997, Department of Industry, Science and Resources, 1998
  • Petroleum Refining and Marketing in Australia - Changes Ahead, 1999-2000, Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Group, Parliamentary Library,1999

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