Iron ore exports reached a record-high $10.9 billion in October – the second such high in four months, thanks to China’s continuing appetite for Pilbara ore.
Preliminary trade data for October from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Tuesday showed the nation’s exports rose 6% to $30.5 billion, with iron ore accounting for about a third of that.
October’s exports worth $10.9 billion was about $650 million more than the previous record set in June.
Iron ore prices remain above $US120 a tonne at the moment thanks to a demand from China and COVID-related supply interruptions in other producers such as Brazil, India and South Africa this year.
Iron ore prices are on track to top $US100 a tonne for the standard 62% Fe fines delivered to northern China that makes up most of Australia’s exports of the mineral.
The ABS said that monthly exports also increased for gas, up $360 million or 18%, and meat, up $217 million or 21% as more was shipped to the US.
Coal exports also increased, driven by thermal coal, mostly used for electricity generation.
However, Australia’s total trade surplus for October slipped from $5.11 billion to $4.84 billion in original terms.
This is because of an 8% rise in imports ( $2 billion) to $25.7 billion.
Imports of road vehicles rose $393 million or 13%, while telecommunications and sound equipment (and gaming machines) was up $359 million or 28% (ahead of the Christmas retail season), and miscellaneous manufactured articles rose $220 million or 15%.
“We continue to see a rise in road vehicle imports,” ABS Head of International Statistics, Branko Vitas said in the statement.
“And with the release of new mobile phone models, and games and gaming consoles, increases in these products have driven imports up in October”.
The ABS said that in the year to October the value of exports were down 3% or $912 million, thanks to falls in shipments of gas (down $1.7 billion or 43%, because of lower prices), coal shipped fell $1.22 billion, or 27% (because of the delays in China and lower demand from Japan and South Korea as electricity production fell).
The value of oil exports also fell – down $602 million or 52% because of the slump in global prices this year and demand.