Exports of agricultural production, Aug 2000

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August 17, 2000
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Exports of agricultural production

Reports on Queensland ABC radio this week have suggested that there are substantial differences between Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) estimates of the export component of Australia’s agricultural output.

The Australian Statistician (Mr Dennis Trewin) and the Executive Director of ABARE (Dr Brian Fisher) refuted these suggestions today in a joint statement.

Mr Trewin noted that the ABS has not published any such estimates as to do so would involve assumptions, which is beyond the role of the organisation. Dr Fisher noted that, based on ABS data, ‘ABARE estimates that 60-70 per cent of agricultural production is exported in any given year’. He noted that ‘the actual figure varies from year to year because of the effects of such factors as weather on farm output and exports’.

Claims by some commentators that only 20-25 per cent of agricultural production is exported have been arrived at by considering only direct (unprocessed) exports, thus excluding such products as raw sugar, beef and dairy products and agricultural production embedded in other exports such as processed food and leather.

Suggestions that ABARE data show exports amount to as much as 80 per cent of agricultural production are wrong. This is because such a number results from a comparison of agricultural production valued at the farm gate, with exported items valued on board ship. The latter products can include substantial value adding (in the form of transportation and downstream processing) after they leave the farm.

When agricultural production and exports are valued on a comparable basis ABARE estimates that, based on its assumptions, around 60-70 per cent of Australian agricultural production is exported each year.

Contact officers:

Jim Payne, ABS
(02) 6252 7525, 0418 481 756
Terry Sheales, ABARE
(02) 6272 2054