Volume steers exports clear

WA’S exporters are putting a trade blip during the past six to nine months behind them, with the weak Australian dollar helping them comfortably ride the downturn ahead of an expected boost in production.

Led by increases in minerals production and renewed investment in LNG, WA’S top 140 exporters are looking forward to overcoming a brief slowdown during 2000-2001.

Other commodities such as the live sheep trade, meat and wool have all started to perform well, offering the rural sector some hope after a big fall in wheat volumes.

Next year, exporters will be looking to match the 1999-2000 financial year, when total export revenue increased more than $900 million on the previous fiscal year – about an 8 per cent jump.

Calendar 2000 was also a good year with export growth hitting about 50 per cent in June before slowing down in the second half.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist Nicky Cusworth said energy exports such as LNG had decreased in value due to a drop in the world oil price.

“There has also been a drop off in export volumes,” Ms Cusworth said.

“Agricultural exports are down, thanks largely to the poor grain harvest last year.”

However, Ms Cusworth believes the gloom will lift fairly soon.

“There’ve been large production increases in some minerals sectors and we’re expecting export volumes to increase,” she said.

According to the Business News List of Largest Exporters in WA, alumina producer Alcoa again leads our exports, retaining its number one ranking with a 1999-2000 export revenue of $2,224 million.

Liquefied natural gas and petroleum seller Woodside kept its number four ranking but should be a big mover next year thanks to the low Australian dollar and reasonably high world oil prices.

The big movers of the last financial year in terms of export revenue were Imdex, Worley, ERG and Austal. Both Imdex and Worley boosted their export revenues by 100 per cent. Industrial minerals and processors exporter Imdex jumped from $3 million to $6 million while engineer and project manager Worley leapt from $6 million to $12 million.

However, the jumps were not enough to improve their rankings in the Business News list.

Worley’s ranking actually fell from 35 to 69, while Imdex stayed ranked at 88.

Imdex’s fortunes should improve further in this financial year though, thanks to multi-million dollar contracts signed in the Middle East.

WA’s shipbuilders have managed to sustain their export drives despite strong competition from Europe’s heavily subsidised shipbuilders.

Austal jumped five places from seven to 12 due to a 69 per cent growth in export revenue.

Even relative ferry-building minnow Sabre Catamarans jumped four places from 72 to 68 on the back of a 17 per cent export revenue jump.

Smart Card and fare collection systems developer ERG jumped five spots from 17 to 12 with a 44 per cent growth in export revenue over the past financial year.

WA seems set to ride on the sheep’s back again, but this time it is their meat, not wool the buyers are after.

The WA Meat Marketing Cooperative had a $1 million growth in export revenue in 1999-2000 but greater growth is expected this year.

Beef is expected to be another growth export in coming years with the mad cow and foot and mouth disease scares sweeping Europe.

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