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Feature Article - Measuring exports by region of origin
USE OF DATA ITEMS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE
While recognising that problems exist in using export information collected by Customs to determine region of origin, the data items collected by Customs were examined to determine whether any would provide useful indicators in determining the region of origin of exported goods.
State of Origin
The State of origin reported on export entries refers to the State of production, or the State in which the final stage of production or manufacture occurred. Any expansion of this item to identify region as well as State is likely to be met with resistance, since there is increasing pressure to reduce reporting load.
Australian Port of Loading
The Australian port of loading (the port where the goods are loaded onto the ship or aircraft which will transport the goods from Australia) provides some information which could help in regionalising data for certain areas. However, most ports handle export goods produced in a variety of regions, and this is especially the case for ports which specialise in handling specific commodities.
Owner Address and Telephone Number
If the location of the owner could be accurately determined from the information on the export entry or the reference file, this may provide some indication of the region of origin of the goods. However, determining the location of the owner is not a straightforward process.
For exporters who lodge their own export entries the postcode or phone number on the reference file could potentially be used to determine the location of the owner. However, the majority of export entries are lodged by agents. The only owner information available for these exports is the owner name and phone number which is reported on each export entry lodged by an agent. These fields are not always completed accurately or consistently. For example, phone number is sometimes reported without the area code, sometimes mobile phone numbers are entered, and sometimes the agent's phone number is entered.
Even if the location of the owner of the goods could be accurately determined, it does not necessarily accurately reflect the region of origin of the goods. For example, the owner address and phone number provided often relate to offices which may not be in the same region (or even State) as the area the goods originate from.
In order to gauge the accuracy of using information on the owner's telephone number as an indicator of region of origin, a sample of 170 export entries lodged by a mixture of owners and agents was examined. All exporters were contacted to determine the correct region of origin of their goods, and the main findings are summarised below.
It is clear from this that even if the phone number was reported in a format that would enable identification of the exporter's location in all instances, this would not be sufficient to determine the region of origin.
Based on the small sample of export entries examined in detail, Customs data cannot be used to provide an accurate dissection of exports by region of origin. A possible success rate of 54% does not justify the cost of making the necessary systems changes, particularly considering that for some regions, much of the data would need to be suppressed due to confidentiality concerns.
OTHER REGIONAL DATA STUDIES
Further work on estimating regional exports has been carried out in the Queensland and South Australian offices of the ABS using data from sources other than Customs. The Queensland exercise involved obtaining information from exporters, marketing bodies, industry associations, regional development bodies, Government departments and agencies and has provided useful results for the three regions examined in detail (Mackay, Bundaberg, and Central Highlands). Clients who are interested in more information about this work should contact Brian Holliday on (07) 3222 6132.
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