Trade declines, but resources exports remain strong


The value of exports and imports of goods both decreased in April 2020 although demand for resource commodities remained strong, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) preliminary international trade in goods figures.

The preliminary figures show that exports fell $4 billion or 12 per cent from the record high figure in March 2020 of $35,797m.

Driving the decrease was a $1.7 billion decrease in exports of non-monetary gold following significant trade last month (trade in non-monetary gold is volatile and large month-to-month movements are not uncommon). Smaller decreases were also observed in other major resource commodities including iron ore, coal, gas and petroleum.

Despite the month-on-month fall, Australian exports remain strong due largely to ongoing demand for Australian resource commodities, in particular iron ore from major trading partners across Asia, and gas.

Year-on-year the value of exports in April 2020 was 1 per cent higher than the value recorded in April 2019.

The value of goods imported fell in April 2020, down 5 per cent on March 2020, due to decreases in imports of petroleum, aircraft, non-monetary gold, and road vehicles.

April 2020 saw imports from China continue to recover from decreases observed earlier in 2020. Of note, imports of laptop computers from China remained strong in April 2020, in line with increased demand during the COVID-19 lock down period.

There were also increases in imports of commodities associated with the detection and prevention of COVID-19 in April 2020, including testing kits and personal protective equipment.

Year-on-year, the value of imports in April 2020 was down 7 per cent on April 2019 with large decreases in the value of imports of petroleum and road vehicles.

This publication forms part of the suite of new 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 April will be published on 4 June 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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