5489.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2015  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/11/2015   
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3.24 Australia's exported goods are generally recorded at the time of shipment. Imports are recorded when the DIBP first finalises the processing of the relevant import declarations. The time of recording of exports and imports is explained more fully in Table 3.2.


  • Exports are recorded on a date of shipment basis, which reflects the time of the physical movement of the goods out of Australia. The date of shipment is generally not affected by delays in processing of declarations by the DIBP.
  • All exporters (or their agents) are required to lodge export declarations prior to the departure of the goods. Most goods are recorded as exports when shipping companies and airlines submit manifests containing the customs declaration and shipment details to the DIBP.
  • Export statistics have been compiled on a date of shipment basis since April 1992. The detailed series available on the ABS website was re-compiled on this basis back to January 1988. Prior to that time, exports were recorded in the month when declarations were processed by the DIBP.

  • Imports are recorded in the calendar month in which the import declarations are first finalised by the DIBP. Normally this is within a few days of discharge of cargo, although, on occasion, there are delays in the finalisation of import declarations. Import declarations can also be finalised before the goods actually arrive to expedite goods movements. For these reasons, recorded imports for a particular month may not necessarily represent declarations lodged, or commodities actually imported, during that month.
  • The UN standards recommend recording goods in the month that they arrive. Analysis of Australia's imports for the period July 2010 to June 2012 shows that compliance with the standards would have an impact on the quality and timeliness of the statistics, as it often takes in excess of 15 months for the DIBP to receive and process all records relating to goods that arrive in a particular month.
  • Analysis of recorded merchandise imports data for the period July 2010 to June 2012 shows that, in aggregate, between 88% and 94% (on average 92%) of imports by value recorded for a particular month actually arrive during that month. Of the balance, roughly equal amounts arrived during the month before or the month after the declaration was finalised. For individual commodities, the percentage by value representing actual arrivals in a month can vary considerably. The most notable example is petroleum where the value of merchandise imports recorded for a particular month that actually arrived in the same month varies from 80% to 92% (on average 84%).
  • Aggregate analysis of imports which arrived in a month compared with those lodged or finalised for the period July 2013 to June 2014 shows a closer relationship between goods imported in a month and goods finalised in the same month (than between goods imported in a month and goods lodged in the same month).