Australia Seeks to Broaden Export Markets as Tensions Rise with Its Largest Buyer

As Australia’s almond exports grew in recent years, so did the share of those exports bound for China – from 1% in Australia’s 2017-2018 marketing year to 54% in the most recently-completed 2019-2020 marketing year.

That is now changing. More than halfway through Australia’s 2020-2021 marketing year, its exports to China as a share of its total exports are down 21% compared with the previous marketing year.

In recent months, Australia’s almond exporters have made efforts to broaden the basket of countries they ship almonds to, with the result that a smaller share of Australia’s almond exports is heading to China. As a dispute between the two countries makes it increasingly difficult for Australia to send a host of commodities and products to China, Australia’s move to diversify its export base appears to have come at a good time.

“China has always been a buyer of our product, and we’re hopeful that will continue,” said an almond exporter in the Australian state of South Australia. “But there’s a level of uncertainty there that wasn’t there before.”

So far, Australia’s almond industry appears to have dodged becoming a casualty of the spat, which goes back to 2018 when Australia banned China from building its 5G network in Australia. Tensions rose in April when Australia’s prime minister called for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, which scientists say first appeared in China.

Those and other grievances prompted China to respond by announcing restrictions on a raft of Australian products and commodities such as coal, copper, barley, beef, and wine.

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