The value of Australian agricultural exports reached $50.1 billion in 2019/20 - the second most valuable year on record - despite a year-on-year decline of $601.4 million, according to Rural Bank's Australian Agriculture Trade 2019/20 report.
The slight decline marks the end of nine years of consecutive growth but shows the resilience in the value of agricultural exports in the face of drought and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
Export values remained within the $49.9 to $50.7 billion range over the past three years.
China accounted for 30.3 per cent of total export value, continuing to be the critical market for Australian agriculture.
Australia's top five export markets were China, Japan, the United States, South Korea and Indonesia.
In 2019/20, China overtook Japan for the first time to become the top market for Australian beef, partly filling a protein gap caused by the outbreak of African swine fever.
Following the imposition of tariffs on barley, farmers will continue to closely monitor the relationship between Australia and China, with further sanctions likely to affect agricultural and viticultural exports.
Rural Bank chief operating officer Will Rayner said all states except WA recorded growth in the value of agricultural exports but seasonal conditions and the global recovery from COVID-19 would be the two key factors for the remainder of 2020/21.
"Australian agricultural exports continue to be strong despite COVID-19, and in most states agricultural export values are forecast to grow; this demonstrates the remarkable reliability of Australian food and fibre exports," Mr Rayner said.
"Victoria remained Australia's highest value exporting state at $13.7 billion in 2019/20, while Tasmania's agricultural exports have exceeded $1 billion for the first time.
"Early 2020 saw some much-needed rain in the eastern states, which has meant improved prospects for farmers in both broadacre industries and horticulture.
"We expect to see growth in cropping values, while livestock exports are likely to decrease as producers focus on restocking."
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He said while agriculture as an essential sector help up well throughout COVID-19, some industries had been significantly affected.
"Demand for seafood, wine, wool and red meat will continue to feel the effect of food service closures and a weaker economy," he said.
"Easing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, both domestically and internationally, will be key to increasing demand for these sectors."
Livestock experienced the largest growth rate in 2019/20, with the value of cattle exports increasing by 16.6pc (+$2 billion) and sheep increasing 3.3pc (+$141.7 million).
Other growth industries included cropping with an increase of 2.4pc (+$180.7 million), dairy at 2pc (+$50.6 million), sugar at 9.8pc (+$149.8 million) and fruit at 11.1pc (+$154.2 million).
Commodities that experienced a decline in export value include cotton (-$1.6 billion), wool (-$1.3 billion), seafood (-$88.4 million), nuts (-$48.4 million), wine (-$46.2 million) and vegetables (-$15.8 million).
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