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Latest trade data confirmed the resilience of Australia’s resources sector, with coal exports on the rise despite recent global challenges, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said.

Mr Pitt said the value of Australian coal exports in December increased by an impressive 26 per cent from November.

“Coal was worth $3.7 billion to the Australian economy in December alone as exporters looked to fill gaps in international markets and made the most of the increase in thermal coal prices,” Mr Pitt said.

“In the middle of the northern hemisphere winter, it’s not surprising that thermal coal accounted for most of the increase to meet the demand from power utilities.

“Coal sales to Vietnam and India were stronger, reaffirming the competitiveness of Australian coal, and its reputation for high quality in global markets.

“This again reinforces the importance of coal as an Australian export commodity and that it will remain so for many more years to come.

“The trade data also confirms that despite the global challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian resources and energy exports were valued at a phenomenal $272.5 billion in the 12 months to December.”

Trade figures released by the ABS show Australia recorded a $9 billion goods trade surplus in December, up from $7.4 billion in November.

“Imports have fallen following a November spike to be more in line with recent history, while exports of metalliferous ores and cereals are the strongest in history, resulting in the fourth highest goods trade surplus on record,” ABS head of international statistics, Katie Hutt said.

The strong surplus is heavily influenced by trade with China. Imports from China fell $641 million (7 per cent) in December, while exports to China increased $2.3 billion (21 per cent). Australia’s goods trade surplus with China alone stands at $5.2 billion for December. 

Metalliferous ore exports were a major driver in the $4.9 billion increase in total exports recorded for the month.

Iron ore accounted for 82 per cent of the total value, with exports worth $12.51 billion.

While hard coking coal exports to China have diminished since mid-2020, increased exports to India, Japan and South Korea have offset some of the fall. 

Australia’s three largest export destinations for coal all recorded large increases in December including: Japan, up $236 million (27 per cent), India, up $272 million (38 per cent), and South Korea, up $148 million (48 per cent).