Imports of cars and petroleum at near record lows


The value of imports and exports of goods both declined in May 2020, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) preliminary international trade in goods figures.

The preliminary figures show that the value of imports fell $2.2 billion or 9 per cent from the revised April figure of $24.1 billion to $21.9 billion, and also declined $4.8 billion or 18 per cent on the May 2019 figure. The decline in imports was driven by a large drop in the value of imports of both road vehicles and petroleum.

The value of imports of road vehicles has declined significantly since March 2020 and is the lowest value since April 2011. Large declines were recorded in imports of passenger vehicles and four-wheel drives.

The value of imports of petroleum in May 2020 was at the lowest level since February 2005, with imports of crude petroleum and aircraft fuel most significantly impacted by the decline in demand due to COVID-19 restrictions and lower oil prices.

The value of goods exported declined in May 2020, down 4 per cent on the revised April figure of $31.1 billion to $29.7 billion, and 13 per cent on the May 2019 figure. The decline was due to significant declines in exports of non-monetary gold, coal, and gas. The declines in the exports of coal and gas are off the back of reduced demand from some of Australia’s key trading partners.

Despite the overall value of exports falling, exports of iron ore remained strong in May 2020 as a result of global supply disruptions due to COVID-19, particularly in Brazil and the ongoing demand for Australian iron ore. Exports of iron ore account for around a quarter of the value of all Australian exports and the ongoing strength in this commodity continues to prop up Australian exports.

This publication forms part of the suite of products made available by the ABS to help the community and governments understand the impact of, and economic responses to the coronavirus, COVID-19.

The ABS would like to thank all those who contributed to this data.

Media note

  • The estimates in this publication are on an original, current price (merchandise trade) basis only, not a Balance of Payments (BoP) basis. This means that the data is on a customs basis, whereas BoP data are derived from the customs data by applying adjustments for factors such as valuation, coverage, timing and residence. The official monthly estimate for May will be published on 2 July 2020 in International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat no. 5368.0). Future preliminary international merchandise trade estimates, will be published approximately two weeks prior to the advertised release date of International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat no. 5368.0).
  • When reporting ABS data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or ABS) must be attributed as the source.
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