End of year trade data confirms strength of resources sector

Final trade data for the 2019-20 financial year confirms the strength of Australia’s resources sector in underpinning the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show Australia’s commodity exports reached a record $287 billion in 2019-20, and that resource and energy commodity exports have grown 3.5 per cent since 2018-19, despite the global economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The figures confirm iron ore exports were worth $102 billion for the year after a massive $10 billion in June. The June exports rose by 8.1 per cent from May, making iron ore Australia’s first commodity to earn more than $100 billion in a single year.

Australian iron ore production has doubled over the past decade with annual exports enough to build more than 10,000 Sydney Harbour bridges.

Australian gold exports also reached a record $24 billion in 2019-20, more than 29 per cent higher than a year ago.

Resources, Water and Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt said the data confirmed the resources sector was supporting the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, and would support jobs and growth as the economy emerges from the pandemic.

“Australia’s success in becoming a top supplier of iron ore and gold has provided a crucial buffer to our economy, with record earnings helping Australia to face the global headwinds from the COVID-19 outbreak,” Minister Pitt said.

“It’s a great testament to our strong environmental and safety standards and the work of resources companies that have allowed us to avoid some of the problems experienced elsewhere in the world.

“I also thank all workers in sector who have contributed to ensuring that Australia remains a reliable supplier with a supportive investment environment.

“Australia’s commodity industry continues to provide the materials needed to lift millions in our region out of poverty, while providing crucial jobs and income to Australia’s regions.”

Gold exports are forecast to reach $32 billion in 202021, with gold set to become the third largest commodity export behind iron ore and LNG.

Australia is forecast to become the world’s largest gold producer in 2021-22 with output forecast to peak at 381 tonnes as high prices encourage an expansion.

The resources sector has not been immune from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic as global industrial activity temporarily declines.

LNG exports edged down to $48 billion in 2019-20, while exports of metallurgical and thermal coal eased to $56 billion.

“I expect these figures to improve as the world emerges from the COVID-19 crisis.” Minister Pitt said.

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