South Australia—Copper exports outshine the agriculture sector

South Australian copper exports—the state’s second largest merchandise export—after alcoholic beverages—grew 24% in 2018. This was driven by 100% growth in receipts from China, despite falling global prices stemming from the US-China trade dispute. Copper receipts from other markets remained flat.

Looking ahead, prices are set to rise amid low inventory levels; strong demand related to the growing uptake of battery systems and infrastructure investment across Asia. Production in South Australia may be boosted by the development of new projects such as the Olympic Dam expansion, as well as the Carrapateena, Hillside and Kalkaroo mines. Research is also being conducted into the use of advanced mining technologies to boost the state’s copper production and improve competitiveness.

Drought in addition to frost and wind over the growing season caused South Australia’s agricultural export receipts to fall 6% in 2018. But wine was the exception, driven by strong Chinese demand. Alcoholic beverage exports have risen $776m over the past five years, with 84% of this gain coming from China alone. China is now the destination for 36% of South Australia’s two largest merchandise exports—alcoholic beverages and copper—up from a low of 9% a decade earlier (Chart).