OUR nearest neighbours are now our most valuable customers for WA agri-exports according to the latest trade statistics summary.
The 2017 annual WA Agrifood, Fibre, Fisheries and Forestry Industries (WAAFFFI) booklet, published last week by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), shows Association of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries have overtaken North-East Asia as our biggest customers.
Essentially, according to the booklet, combined WAAFFFI trade with Indonesia – our biggest export customer – Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei exceeds combined exports to China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
The Middle East and North Africa trails as a distant third-best WAAFFFI export region, with Europe a close fourth.
The 2017 WAAFFFI booklet is based on 2015-16 economic indicators from the Department of Treasury, DPIRD’s own data and the latest complete-cycle Australian Bureau of Statistics data.
It shows that in 2015-16, after drawing much closer over the previous three financial years, the value of total WAAFFFI exports to ASEAN countries exceeded that of exports to North-East Asia for the first time.
The total value of WAAFFFI exports to ASEAN countries that financial year was $2579 million, compared to $2117m into North-East Asia.
Exports to the Middle East and North Africa totalled $848m, to Europe $763m, to Central Asia (India and countries to the north, excluding eastern China) $142m and to North America $127m.
According to the booklet, WA’s top export destinations listed in order of dollars spent were Indonesia, $941m, just ahead of China, $912m, followed by Vietnam, $833m, Japan, $542m, South Korea, $514m, and Germany, $271m.
The Philippines, Belgium, Malaysia and Kuwait rounded out WA’s top 10 export customers.
The importance to agri-trade of our immediate neighbours was noted by Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan in her forward written for the booklet.
“About 60 per cent of the world’s population lives within West Australia’s time zone, making us ideally placed to capitalise on opportunities,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“Our range of climatic conditions means we are uniquely placed to provide year-round quality food products for domestic consumption and for export.
“The (WAAFFFI) sector places a high value on overseas markets and works to drive innovation to deliver better outcomes for our customers in Australia and overseas,” she said.
Ms MacTiernan said the gross value of WA agricultural production in 2015-16 was $8.2 billion, up 4.2pc on 2014-15’s $7.9b.
A snapshot of the 2015-16 WA economy in the booklet showed gross State product at $255b for the year, an economic growth rate of 1.9pc, a population of 2.6 million, imports totalled $34.7b and exports totalled $99.6b.
The unemployment rate was 5.7pc, the inflation rate 1pc and average weekly earnings $1320.
There were 14,469 agricultural producers in WA, they employed 183,600-workers and they provided 16pc of Australia’s agrifood exports that year.
Cereal crops and products were clearly the major WAAFFFI export earner in 2015-16, generating $4923m in total, with wheat the main crop ($2779m or 69.1pc of the total), followed by barley ($820m or 20.4pc), cereal hay ($139m or 3.5pc), malt ($129m or 3.2pc) and oats ($93m or 2.3pc).
Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and China were WA’s main cereals customers.
Processed agrifood and fisheries were the next best sector, generating $1506m in total export earnings, with meat and animal offal products ($591m or 39pc) most prominent, followed by crustaceans ($478m or 32pc), cereal products ($190m or 13pc), food stuffs (64m) and dairy products ($57m) each comprised 4pc of the total and wine ($44m or 3pc) brought up the rear.
Meat and live animal trade was the third best sector, generating a total of $1236m in export earnings, with live cattle ($327m) and sheep meat ($323m) vying for top position within the sector, each providing 26pc of the value.
Beef ($215m or 17pc) was next then live sheep ($200m or 16pc), other livestock products (118m or 10pc), pig meat ($35m or 3pc) and other meat ($18m or 2pc).
Our best beef export markets were South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, United States of America and China, while our best live cattle markets were Indonesia, Vietnam, Israel, Malaysia and Egypt.
Best sheep meat markets were United Arab Emirates, China, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and USA and best live sheep export markets were Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, UAE and Bahrain.
Pulses, pasture products and oilseeds were the fourth highest export earning sector, generating $923m in total, with canola a clear export winner ($746 or 81pc of sector’s earnings), followed by lupins ($81m or 9pc), pasture products ($59m or 6pc), other pulses ($22m or 2pc) and other oilseeds ($15m or 2pc).
Germany, Belgium, France, Netherlands and Japan were the main buyers of the segment’s commodities.
Fisheries exports generated $598m, with lobster exports ($453) comprising 75.8pc of that.
Pearls ($92m or 15.5pc), other fish products ($44m or 7.3pc) and fish meat ($8m or 1.3pc) made up the rest of the segment.
Most of WA’s fisheries exports ended up in Vietnam.
WA’s wool industry generated $477m in export earnings with 83pc of the clip going to China, 8pc to India and 4pc to the Czech Republic.
Horticulture exports generated $119m, with vegetables ($81m or 68pc) the main earner, followed by fruit and nuts ($36m or 30pc) and nursery products ($2m or 2pc).
Main destinations for WA horticulture produce were UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong.
The booklet also revealed some interesting contexts by listing WA’s most valuable export commodities in order.
For example, lobster was the fifth most valuable WAAFFFI export in 2015-16, behind wheat, barley, canola seeds and wool.
Pearls and pearl shells exports generated more money for WA than exports of oats, lupins, vegetables, beef meat and wine.