Characteristics of Australian Exporters

Latest release

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

Reference period
2019-20 financial year

Key statistics


  • The number of exporters increased marginally to 56,274.
  • The total value of merchandise exports reached a record high of $382b.
  • 62% of all exporters were small exporters.
  • The mining industry was the only industry to see an increase in the number of exporters in 2019-20, increasing 4%.

A new methodology has been used to compile the 2019-20 release of Characteristics of Australian Exporters, please see Methodology for more information. 

All data contained within this release (2013-14 to 2019-20) has been produced using the same methodology and is therefore comparable over time. 

Exporter population

The number of exporters increased marginally (0.2%) to 56,274 in 2019-20, the smallest increase seen in the last 6 years.

The increase in number of exporters was predominantly in large exporters, which increased 3% to 6,362; small exporters increased by 1% to 35,051; while the number of medium exporters declined 3% to 14,861.

62% of all exporters are small exporters, while only 11% are large exporters. Please refer to Exporter size in the Methodology for more information on size criteria.

Industry of exporter

The wholesale trade industry continues to be the largest industry, making up 24% (13,351) of all exporters, followed by manufacturing which made up 16% (8,966) of exporters.

While the mining industry made up only 1% of the total number of exporters, it was the only industry to increase, up 4% to 478.

(a) Includes goods exporters in Electricity, gas, water and waste services; Accommodation and food services; Information media and telecommunications; Financial and insurance services; Rental, hiring and real estate services; Professional, scientific and technical services; Administrative and support services; Public administration and safety; Education and training; Health, care and social assistance; Arts and recreation services; as well as businesses that lack a classification under ANZSIC 2006 and businesses yet to confirm their main industry of activity with the Australian Taxation Office.

Frequency of export

Half of all exporters (50%) had only one or two export transactions across 2019-20.  In contrast, 10% of businesses undertook 51 or more export transactions across the year. 

Number of merchandise exporters, by number of export transactions
Number of Export TransactionsNumber of Merchandise Exporters
Fewer than 328,10050
3 to 1014,58826
11 to 204,1657
21 to 503,9437
51 or more5,47810


Location of exporter (main state)

There was a decline in the number of exporters across all of the main exporting states (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia) in 2019-20, with a small increase in exporters located in Tasmania. A larger offsetting increase was seen in state not specified with a number of exporters using a Customs Client Identifier (CCID) to complete their export documentation. Use of a CCID rather than ABN means the exporter cannot be linked to a state, as such care should be taken when interpreting counts of exporters by state due to increasing use of CCID's.

The main state of exporter location continues to be New South Wales (13,927 exporters), followed by Victoria (12,568). Together, almost half (47%) of Australian merchandise exporters have a main address in these states.

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 (42%) and Queensland (25%).

Export destination (country of final destination)

In 2019-20, China continued to be Australia's largest export destination, with $150b worth of exports (up $16b or 12% on 2018-19), which accounted for 39% of total merchandise exports. Across 2019-20, 15% of all exporters had a transaction with China, up from 14% in 2018-19.

Overall, the average export value per exporter was $6.8m. However, the average differed considerably across destination countries. The countries with the largest average export value (per exporter) were China ($18m) and Japan ($14.5m).

By merchandise exporter count, New Zealand was the most dominant market, with 33% (18,716) of all exporters, exporting at least once to New Zealand in 2019-20.

Data downloads

Data files

Post-release changes

30/06/2022 - As advertised in this publication on 17 May 2022, Table 4 Value of merchandise exports, by industry of exporter and state of origin of exported commodity is now available under the Data Downloads section.

17/05/2022 - As advertised in this publication on 27 April 2022, three of the remaining tables are now available under the Data Downloads section. This includes:

  • Table 1.2 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 3.2 Value of merchandise exports, by industry of exporter and exporter size

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 5368.0.55.006

Back to top of the page