Mining props up Aust exports amid pandemic

Australian minerals are still fetching a good price on the international market despite the economic hit of coronavirus.

Preliminary figures show exports plunged $4 billion or 12 per cent in April, compared to a record high of $31.44 billion in March.

But despite the month-on-month fall, Australian exports remain strong thanks to strong demand for iron ore in Asia.

Commsec chief economist Craig James said trade was still up one per cent compared to April 2019 despite everything the global economy had thrown at Australia.

“It’s a good news story,” Mr James said.

“The low Australian dollar is certainly helping our exports as well as a strong demand for iron ore.”

He said the main driver of the decline was the drop in gold exports in April after a significant rise in March.

“I wouldn’t be reading too much into the drop,” Mr James said.

The ABS also pointed to a fall in fuel, aircraft and car imports.

But there was a rise in imports of coronavirus-related medical supplies, including test kits and personal protective equipment.

Mr James said Australia’s economy was still going strong despite the economic hits of Brexit, the US-China trade war, the summer’s bushfire crisis and coronavirus.

“Our exports remain in demand from the rest of the world,” he said.

“The mining sector is our biggest contributor.”

Australia’s calls for an international inquiry into the origins of coronavirus has stoked trade tensions with China.

Beijing has flagged a potential clamp down on Australian coal, warning state-owned power plants away from Aussie minerals and announcing new supervising roles for iron ore imports.

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