Characteristics of Australian Exporters

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This publication provides an analysis of the number and characteristics of Australia's merchandise exporters.

Reference period
2018-19 financial year

Key statistics

  • The number of exporters continues to increase, up 7% to 56,772.
  • Small exporters (up 11%) drove the overall increase in the exporter population.
  • Small businesses make up 61% of all exporters.
  • The mining industry make up 1% of exporters but 61% of the export value.

Exporter population

The number of exporters increased by 7% to 56,772 between 2017-18 and 2018-19. This continues the upward trend seen since 2013-14. Most of this increase was in the category of small exporters, which increased by 11% to 34,451.

The majority of Australian merchandise (goods) exporters are small businesses (61%), which contribute only 1% of the total export value. While only 12% of merchandise exporters are large businesses, which accounted for 96% of the value.

Of the 56,772 exporting businesses, only 328 businesses exported merchandise over $100m in the 2018-19 financial year, which accounted for 86% of the total export value.

For 2018-19 the typical exporter, based on the median of all exporters, had:

  • two employees;
  • turnover of $700,000;
  • exports valued at $30,000;
  • three export transactions; and,
  • trade with a single export market (country of final destination).
Number of merchandise exporters and value of exports, by size of business
Business Size (a)Number of Merchandise ExportersValue of Merchandise Exports
No.%Value ($m)%

(a) Refer to Business size criteria in the methodology of the publication


Industry of exporter

While the Mining industry made up only 1% of the total number of exporters, they continue to account for over half (61%) of the exports value. The second most dominant industry was Manufacturing, contributing 22% of the exports value.

The Mining industry also accounted for most ($47 billion) of the year on year increase in the value of Australian exports. This increase was influenced by continued demand for Australia’s resource commodities, such as coal, iron ore, and liquefied natural gas. The average exports value per Mining exporter increased from $387m to $461m.

By number of exporters, wholesale trade was the largest industry making up 25% (14,208) of all merchandise exporters.

Industry of exporter, by value and number of merchandise exporters
Industry of ExporterNumber of Merchandise ExportersValue of Merchandise Exports
No.%Value ($m)%
Agriculture, forestry and fishing1,02624,3751
Wholesale trade14,2082539,96711
Retail trade4,92793,0691
Transport, postal and warehousing1,45833,8341


Frequency of export

Approximately half of all exporters had only one or two export transactions across the 2018-19 financial year. In contrast, 91% of the total export value was attributed to businesses which undertook 51 or more export transactions across the year.

Number of export transactions, by number of merchandise exporters and value of exports
Number of Export TransactionsNumber of Merchandise ExportersValue of Merchandise Exports
No.%Value ($m)%
Fewer than 328,245501,3820
3 to 1014,524266,1862
11 to 204,23777,4232
21 to 504,053719,0415
51 or more5,71310338,59091


Origin of export (state or territory)

The states and territories where resource exports are prominent, saw significant increases in export value between 2017-18 and 2018-19:

  • Western Australia, up 25% to $162 billion, the main contributors to the increase were iron ore and liquefied natural gas;
  • Queensland up 17% to $87 billion, the main contributors to the increase were coal and liquefied natural gas;
  • New South Wales up 13% to $54 billion, due mainly to increased coal exports; and,
  • Northern Territory up 65% to $9.4 billion due mainly to increased liquefied natural gas exports.

The other states saw relatively little year on year change.

Western Australia continues to be the most dominant State of origin for exported merchandise overall, accounting for 44% of the total value.

Value of merchandise exports, by state of origin of commodity
State of Origin of CommodityValue of Merchandise Exports
Value ($m)%
Total (a)372,622100

(a) 'Total' includes ACT and re-exports. Exports data with confidentiality restrictions 'No Commodity details' or 'No value details' are excluded from individual state totals and included in 'Total'.


Location of business (main state)

In 2018-19, the main state of exporter location was New South Wales (14,871 exporters), followed by Victoria (13,517). Together, half of Australian merchandise exporters have a main business address in either New South Wales or Victoria.

For most industries, New South Wales is the state where the highest number of merchandise exporters are located. The Mining industry is the most notable exception, with Mining exporters most commonly located in Western Australia (43%) and Queensland (25%).

The total value of exports increased by 18% to $373 billion, mainly as a result of substantial increases in the value of iron ore, coal and liquefied natural gas exports. As a result of this, states with significant exports of these commodities (Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Northern Territory) experienced related year on year increases to their total export value.

Export destination (country of final destination)

In 2018-19, China continued to be Australia's largest export destination, with $134 billion worth of exports (up $29 billion or 27% year on year), which accounted for 36% of total merchandise exports. Across the 2018-19 financial year 14% of all exporters had a transaction with China.

Overall, the average export value per exporter was $6.6m. However, the average differed considerably across destination countries. The countries with the largest average export value (per exporter) were China ($16.4m) and Japan ($16.1m).

By merchandise exporter count, New Zealand was the most dominant market, with 34% (19,193) of all exporters, exporting at least once to New Zealand in 2018-19.

Data downloads

Table 1 Number of merchandise exporters and value of merchandise exports, by value range of exports and number of export transactions

Table 2 Value of merchandise exporters, by industry of exporter and industry of origin of exported commodity

Table 3 Number of merchandise exporters and value of merchandise exports, by industry of exporter and business size

Table 4 Value of merchandise exports, by industry of exporter and state of origin of exported commodity

Table 5 Number of merchandise exporters, by industry of exporter, by main state of location and exporter

Table 6 Merchandise exporters, by country of destination

All tables

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 5368.0.55.006

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