GRAIN products are once again Australia’s largest agricultural export by value, replacing beef and cattle at the top of the tree due to the record 2016-17 winter crop.
However, John Eastburn the chairman of grains industry peak body Grain Growers, said while it was a fantastic result, this year had showed just how volatile cropping in Australia can be.
“We had the record production of over 50 million tonnes of grain last year, but this year we have seen the drought and frost hitting yields in NSW, it shows there is a lot of variability in the grains industry,” Mr Eastburn said.
The agricultural exports data comes from Rural Bank, which this week released its 2016-17 A Australian Agriculture Trade Performance report, which found the total value of Australian agri-food exports has increased for the seventh consecutive year.
Total ag exports were up by $3.9 billion to almost $50 billion, with the cropping sector alone rising $3.7 billion, with a 49pc year on year increase in production the major driver.
The report also found a number of markets opened up for Aussie grain last year.
Australian wheat exports to India rose by 920 per cent after wheat tariffs were reduced, while Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam all bought significantly more Australian wheat.
“Indonesia is always important for us, and China also can buy a lot of Australian grain when we have a big year,” Mr Eastburn said.
Oilseeds were also a large driver of the increased value in grain exports, with volumes of Aussie canola increasing by 85pc, with strong European Union demand.
Legume volumes were also up 85 per cent over the past 12 months, with subcontinent markets soaking up the extra volume from a record year in terms of both chickpeas and lentils.
Conversely, beef and cattle export values declined by $1.8 billion, as supply tightened and competition from USA and Brazil heated up in Asian markets.
The value of dairy exports also fell by 1.3 per cent over the year, with production declining across Australia.
Andrew Smith, agribusiness general manager for Rural Bank, said that while the cropping-bolstered ag export figures were unlikely to be repeated this year, the long term trend was promising.
“This year’s value increase in cropping was largely to do with exceptional seasonal conditions that we haven’t seen a repeat of this year,” Mr Smith said.
“However, the long term trend of expanding international markets will continue to drive value in Australia’s exports.”
“Where one commodity sees a decline, another makes up for it, a pattern that has helped mitigate declines in dairy, horticulture and cattle and beef,” Mr Smith said.
In regards to individual states, New South Wales increased its agri export value by 17.6 per cent on the back of strong cotton and grain exports, while Victoria, 4.7pc, Queensland, 9.6pc, South Australia, 5.4pc and Western Australia, 8.4pc, all experienced solid overall gains.