This is not the latest release View the latest release

International Merchandise Trade, Preliminary, Australia

Contains preliminary estimates of international merchandise trade, includes breakdowns of imports, exports, source and destination countries

Reference period
January 2021
Released
23/02/2021

Key statistics

•    Exports of goods in January 2021 declined $3,047m (-9%) to $32,126m
•    Imports of goods in January 2021 declined $2,626m (-10%) to $23,372m
•    For January 2021 there is a goods trade surplus of $8,754m (original, current price, merchandise trade basis)

This publication presents preliminary data on Australia's international trade in goods on an original, current price, merchandise trade basis. These data are subject to revision as more complete and accurate information becomes available. See Methodology for more details.

From the January 2021 reference month onwards, the time series for the European Union represents the current membership of the European Union 27, which excludes the United Kingdom for the entire time series. See Changes in this issue for more details.

Exports

International trade in goods - exports summary (a)
 Nov 2019Dec 2019Jan 2020Nov 2020Dec 2020Jan 2021Dec 2020 - Jan 2021Year on year
$m$m$m$m$m$m$m%$m%
Total goods31,80034,06728,42330,00035,17332,126-3,047-93,70313
Rural goods3,9634,3453,6273,2434,3453,768-577-131414
Non-Rural (b)25,93527,55523,36523,88228,03125,701-2,330-82,33610
Non-monetary gold (c )1,9022,1671,4322,8762,7982,658-140-51,22686

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
a. Caution should be used when interpreting preliminary estimates as they may be different to the final published estimates, and are subject to revision.
b. For all time periods, confidentialised export items are included in Non-rural goods, whether or not this reflects their true nature.
c. Includes Gold coin.

Exports key movements

Exports of goods in January 2021 declined from the revised December 2020 estimate of $35,173m by $3,047m (-9%) to $32,126m.

In January 2021:

•    metalliferous ores declined $1,547m (-10%)
•    meat declined $488m (-39%)
•    coal declined $277m (-8%)
•    gold, non-monetary declined $182m (-7%)

The decline in exports of metalliferous ores was driven by a decline in iron ore, down, $963m (-7%). The decline in iron ore exports was driven by a decrease in quantity, down 10.4m tonnes (-13%) off the back of strong exports in December. The decline was partially offset by ongoing strength in prices, which increased 7% per tonne in January. The strong prices have been driven by ongoing Chinese demand, and weaker than expected output from Brazil’s largest iron ore mine.

The decline in meat was driven by boneless beef, down $308m (-42%). Meat exports follow a seasonal pattern, falling significantly each January, with annual maintenance closures of many Australian abattoirs.

Following large increases in December, Australia’s three largest coal export destinations Japan, India and South Korea recorded declines. The decline in coal was driven by hard coking coal, and partially offset by an increase in thermal coal.

Offsetting the decline:

•    gas increased $249m (9%)
•    oil seeds increased $156m (88%)

Year-on-year

January 2021 exports are $3,703m (13%) higher than January 2020, driven by: 

•    metalliferous ores, up $4,945m (53%)
•    non-monetary gold (excluding gold coin), up $1,158m (89%)
•    cereals, up $464m (68%)

Offsetting the year-on-year increases were gas, down $1,356m (-31%) and coal, down $881m (-21%). Of note, beverages were also down $85m (-39%).

The decline in beverages is driven by red wine, down $81m (-53%). In January 2020, 50% of Australia’s red wine went to China, this has fallen to 1% in January 2021 after the introduction of tariffs on Australian wine from late November.

Download

Top five export destinations

Key country movements:

•    China declined $1,112m (-8%)
•    Japan declined $735m (-17%)
•    United States of America (USA) declined $616m (-33%)
•    South Korea declined $33m (-2%)
•    India increased $1m (0%)

Declining exports to Japan were led by metalliferous ores, down $559m (-53%) in turn driven by iron ore, down $496 (-51%). Meat exports to Japan also declined, down $112m (-48%).

Non-monetary gold led the decline in exports to the USA, down $579m (-68%) off the back of a large gold export to the USA in December.

Exports to China

Driving the decline to Australia’s largest trading partner, China: 
•    metalliferous ores, down $509m (-5%)
•    cereals, down $213m (-77%)
•    meat, down $106m (-41%)

The decline in metalliferous ores to China was driven by iron ore, down $471m (-5%) to $9,665m, accounting for 80% of Australian iron ore exports in January. The decline in iron ore was driven by quantity, down 7.2m tonnes (-12%), and was partially offset by ongoing price strength, with price up 8% per tonne in January. 

The decline in cereals to China was driven by wheat (in bulk), down $208m (83%) following the largest monthly wheat (in bulk) export to China on record in December.

The decline in meat to China was led by boneless beef and follows a seasonal pattern aligning with routine closures of many Australian abattoirs in January. 

Download

Top 10 exports for 2020

Download

Imports

International trade in goods - imports summary (a)
 Nov 2019Dec 2019Jan 2020Nov 2020Dec 2020Jan 2021Dec 2020 - Jan 2021Year on year
$m$m$m$m$m$m$m%$m%
Total goods25,94026,00825,11028,52325,99823,372-2,626-10-1,738-7
Capital goods (b)6,5247,1365,7088,6227,0345,886-1,148-161783
Consumption goods8,5387,8648,0589,8199,3818,075-1,306-14170
Intermediate & other goods10,39810,63010,7419,5559,0038,966-37-0-1,775-17
Non-monetary gold480378603526580445-135-23-158-26

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
a. Caution should be used when interpreting preliminary estimates as they may be different to the final published estimates, and are subject to revision.
b. For all time periods, confidentialised import items are included in Capital goods, whether or not this reflects their true nature  

Imports key movements

Imports of goods in January 2021 declined from the revised December 2020 estimate of $25,998m by $2,626m (-10%) to $23,372m.

In January 2021:
•    road vehicles declined $845m (-23%)
•    general industrial machinery declined $234m (-16%)
•    miscellaneous manufactured articles declined $196m (-13%)
•    electrical machinery, declined $168m (-11%)

The decline in road vehicle imports is the first decline since May. Reports of weak global production due to a semi-conductor shortage (used in electrical circuit production) are likely contributing to the decline in road vehicle imports.

The decline in miscellaneous manufactured articles was led by video games and exercise equipment. While a decline in assembled solar arrays and hand-held tools led the drop in electrical machinery.


Other notable declines include:

•    office and ADP machines, down $167m (-16%)
•    telecommunications and sound equipment, down $155m (-9%)
•    specialised machinery, down $143m (-12%)

Laptops, mobile phones and tractors each respectively drove the declines in the categories above. 

Agricultural tractors declined $101m (-49%) following record high imports in December. January 2021 is still the third highest month on record despite the substantial fall. The Government’s Instant Asset Write Off Scheme is likely to have influenced the higher than normal tractor imports. 

Offsetting the decline:

•    petroleum increased $426m (27%)
•    medicinal and pharmaceutical products increased $168m (19%)

Diesel led the increase in petroleum, up $185m (27%). Immunological products, which includes items for treating and testing for various types of cancer or immune diseases, drove the increase in medicinal and pharmaceutical products, up $93m (93%).

Year-on-year

January 2021 imports are $1,738m (-7%) lower than January 2020, driven by:

•    petroleum, down $1,191m (-37%)
•    non-monetary gold, down $158m (-26%)

Download

Top five source countries

Key country movements:

•    China declined $1,429m (-17%)
•    Japan declined $433m (-25%)
•    the USA declined $179m (-7%)
•    Germany declined $2m (-0%) 
•    Malaysia increased $153m (19%)


Imports from China declined in January following a strong December. Telecommunications and sound equipment recorded the largest decline, down $340m (-29%), driven predominantly by mobile phones, down $217m (-36%) after two strong months of mobile phone imports. Miscellaneous manufactured articles also declined, down $163m (-22%).

The USA’s decline was driven by a $110m (-32%) decline in specialised machinery, predominantly agricultural tractors. This follows the highest month on record for agricultural tractor imports from the USA.

Germany’s imports declined marginally for the month, with declines across a range of categories, with one notable increase, road vehicles, up $60m (29%).

Japan’s decline was almost entirely driven by road vehicles, down $425m (-35%), as reports suggest automakers have reduced production amidst a global semi-conductor shortage. A similar situation has occurred with imports from Thailand, with a decline in road vehicles of $273m (-40%) dropping Thailand out of Australia’s top 5 import source countries for the month. 

The increase in imports from Malaysia was driven by petroleum, up $191m (64%). Increases in imports of gasoline (petrol) and diesel were offset by a decline in crude oil.

Download

Top 10 imports for 2020

Download

Changes in this issue

From the January 2021 reference month onwards, the membership of the European Union country grouping has been amended to reflect the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

The European Union 27 time series now represents the current membership across the entire time series; rather than reflecting the membership of any particular reference period.

For example, the United Kingdom does not contribute to any reference period of the European Union 27 time series presented in this publication (as the United Kingdom is not a current member of the Union). Furthermore, Croatia (as a current member) is represented in all reference periods of the European Union 27 time series (despite joining the Union in 2013).

The value of merchandise trade is computed as a sum of the current member countries. Therefore, users who wish to compute the European Union value with a different membership can simply add the component countries together.

Inquiries

Inquiries about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

Data downloads

Table 1. Preliminary merchandise exports, standard international trade classification (1 and 2 digit), FOB value

Table 2. Preliminary merchandise imports, standard international trade classification (1 and 2 digit), customs value

Table 3. Preliminary merchandise exports, country and country groups, FOB value

Table 4. Preliminary merchandise imports, country and country groups, customs value

Table 5. Preliminary merchandise exports, state and Australia, FOB value

Table 6. Preliminary merchandise imports, state and Australia, customs value

All time series

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 5368.0.55.024