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International Merchandise Trade, Preliminary, Australia

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

Reference period
Mar 21
Released
28/04/2021

Key statistics

  • Exports of goods in March 2021 increased $4,599m (15%) to $36,246m
  • Imports of goods in March 2021 increased $3,643m (15%) to $27,749m
  • For March 2021 there is a goods trade surplus of $8,496m (original, current price, merchandise trade basis)

This publication will be discontinued with the final release (June 2021 reference month) published on 22 July 2021. For more information, see media release Changes to ABS statistical work program.

International merchandise trade data will continue to be available monthly in publication International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia

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.

Exports

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International trade in goods - exports summary (a)
 Jan 2020Feb 2020Mar 2020Jan 2021Feb 2021Mar 2021Feb - Mar 21Mar 20 - Mar 21
$m$m$m$m$m$m$m%$m%
Total goods28,42327,52035,54331,71831,64736,2464,599157032
Rural goods3,6273,7564,4483,6423,9984,9469482449811
Non-Rural (b)23,36522,66527,52225,42024,82129,1804,3601816586
Non-monetary gold (c )1,4321,1003,5732,6572,8282,119-709-25-1454-41

- 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 March 2021 increased from the revised February 2021 estimate of $31,647m by $4,599m (15%) to $36,246m.

In March 2021:

  • metalliferous ores increased $2,755m (20%)
  • gas increased $493m (18%)
  • oilseeds increased $366m (225%)
  • coal increased $272m (9%)

Metalliferous ores reached a record high in March, $16,402m. Driving the increase was iron ore, up 21% and copper ore up 62%.

The increase in iron ore was predominantly due to an increase in quantity exported. Iron ore accounted for 39% of all Australian merchandise exports in March.

Copper ore recorded its third highest export value on record at $745m. March is the second month on record that Australian copper ore has fetched a unit value above $4.50kg. The recent price strength is demand driven, as green technologies are significantly more copper intensive.

The increase in gas was led by liquified natural gas up $326m (12%), with increases also recorded in liquified butane gas and liquified propane gas.

The increase in exports of oil seeds was driven by canola, up $354m to $510m, beating the previous export record set in April 2013. Contributing factors were favourable Australian harvests, poor European and Canadian harvests and strong global oil seed demand.

Offsetting the increase:

  • non-monetary gold declined $703m (-27%)

March 2021 on March 2020

March 2021 exports are $703m (2%) higher than March 2020, driven by:

  • metalliferous ores, up $4,724m (40%)
  • cereals, up $542m (85%)

Offsetting the increases were non-monetary gold, down $1,664m (-47%), coal, down $1,408m (-29%) and gas, down $1,376m (-30%).

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Top five export destinations

Key country movements:

  • China increased $1,926m (17%)  
  • Japan increased $858m (26%)
  • Singapore increased $188m (10%)
  • South Korea increased $117m (5%)
  • India declined $1m (0%)

Exports to Japan increased driven by metalliferous ores, up $243m (35%), driven by iron ore, up $288m.

Despite a decline of $331m in non-monetary gold, exports to Singapore increased overall, with petroleum and metalliferous ores both up.

The increase to South Korea was driven by metalliferous ores, up $347m (41%).

The decline in exports to India was driven by a $188m decline in non-monetary gold and several other smaller decreases in non-ferrous metals, dyeing and tanning materials, and electrical machinery, partially offset by an increase in coal, up $193m.

Exports to China

Driving the increase to Australia’s largest trading partner, China:

  • metalliferous ores, up $1,325m (15%)
  • non-monetary gold, up $218m
  • textile fibres, up $117m (60%)

The increase in metalliferous ores to China was driven by iron ore, up $1,291m to $10,113m, wholly offsetting the February decline. March’s iron ore increase was primarily driven by quantity, up 5.25 million tonnes (11%), with unit value increasing 3%.

The non-monetary gold export to China is the first in 15 months. China is the world’s largest gold producer and consumer, typically consuming more than it produces.

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Imports

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International trade in goods - imports summary (a)
 Jan 2020Feb 2020Mar 2020Jan 2021Feb 2021Mar 2021Feb - Mar 21Mar 20 - Mar 21
$m$m$m$m$m$m$m%$m%
Total goods25,11021,42424,05423,47924,10627,7493,643153,69615
Capital goods (b)5,7084,9986,1975,8765,9966,8328351463510
Consumption goods8,0586,9887,3568,0698,4359,06663171,71023
Intermediate & other goods10,7418,8889,4379,0889,22310,8711,648181,43515
Non-monetary gold6035511,064445452981529117-83-8

- 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 March 2021 increased from the revised February 2021 estimate of $24,106m by $3,643m (15%) to $27,749m.

In March 2021:

  • non-monetary gold increased $529m (117%)
  • petroleum increased $459m (21%)
  • road vehicles increased $350m (10%)
  • electrical machinery, increased $345m (24%)
  • medicinal and pharmaceutical products increased, $267m (29%)

The increase in imports of non-monetary gold was driven by unwrought gold. Aligning with reports of record first quarter gold sales by The Perth Mint (Australia’s largest gold refinery).

The petroleum export value for March was the highest since January 2020. The increase in petroleum was driven by diesel, up $343m and crude oil up $108m.

Road vehicle imports reached another record high in March, the second since December 2020. The increase in March was led by major diesel vehicle categories. Hybrid vehicles also increased, building on an already strong start to the March quarter.

Electrical machinery also recorded a record high, led by an increase in assembled solar arrays and solar cells.

The increase in medicinal and pharmaceutical products was driven by medicaments, immunological products and vaccines. Vaccines increased 101% to their highest value on record, $106m, the majority made up of seasonal flu vaccines and some COVID-19 vaccines.

Mar 2021 on Mar 2020

March 2021 imports are $3,696m (15%) higher than March 2020, driven by:

  • road vehicles, up $997m (34%)
  • electrical machinery, up $492m (38%)
  • petroleum, up $459m (21%)
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Top five source countries

Key country movements:

  • Japan increased $572m (37%)
  • Thailand increased $495m (43%)
  • the USA increased $260m (10%)
  • China increased $189m (3%)
  • Germany declined $2m (0%)

The increase from Japan was driven by road vehicles, up $330m (31%), with increases across a range of passenger vehicle categories.

The increase from Thailand was also driven by road vehicles, specifically larger diesel vehicles used for the transport of goods.

The increase from the USA was driven by non-monetary gold, up $245m to $276m, the second highest gold import from the USA.

The increase from China was driven by petroleum, predominantly diesel, up $199m (189%) to claim the second highest diesel import from China on record.

The decline from Germany was driven by road vehicles, down $130m (-47%).

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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

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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