Australian agricultural exports

Agriculture is an important part of the Australian economy. Australia is a competitive net agricultural exporter, with around two thirds of total production exported. In 2012-13 agricultural exports accounted for 15.5 per cent of Australian merchandise exports*.

Australia's top 10 agricultural exports (by value) – 2014 calendar year
Major agriculture export products A$m Total
Total of Australian Agriculture exports 44,300 100%
Beef 7,751 17.5
Wheat 5,920 13.4
Meat (excl beef) 3,733 8.4



Wool & other animal hair (incl tops) 2,417 5.5
Cotton 2,008 4.5
Wine 1,858 4.2
Barley 1,760 4.0
Live animals (excl seafood) 1,617 3.7
Oil-seeds & oleaginous fruits, soft 1,605 3.6

* Based on the WTO definition of agriculture, which excludes fisheries, forestry and rubber. The value of Australian fisheries, forestry and rubber exports in 2014 was respectively: $1,174, $1,496 and $14 (million).

Australia's major agriculture export markets (by value) – 2014 calendar year
Major agriculture export markets CY2014 A$m Share of Total
Total all countries 42,093 %
China 8,290 19.7
United States


Japan 3,992 9.5
Indonesia 3,329 7.9
Republic of Korea 2,602 6.2
EU28a 2,589 6.15
New Zealand 1,568 3.7
Malaysia 1,283 3.0


Singapore 1,083 2.6

a The 28 members of the European Union in 2014 (EU28) were: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

Source: DFAT STARS Database, based on ABS Cat No 5368.0, June 2015 data; ABS Special Data Service.

World Trade Organization (WTO) and agriculture

The Uruguay Round of trade negotiations called for the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and with it a better outcome for agriculture.  Under the WTO, the Agreement on Agriculture was negotiated and came into force, with the WTO, on 1 January 1995. The Agreement on Agriculture provides the basic legal framework governing agricultural trade.

The Agreement on Agriculture recalls WTO Members’ long term objective to establish a fair and market oriented agricultural trading system.  It focuses on three main pillars:

  • Market Access – dealing with rules and commitments on the trade of goods, it looks at expanding markets and reducing tariffs; and includes special safeguards and tariff rate quotas.
  • Export Competition – Government funded export subsidies and related measures.
  • Domestic Support – payments or other support that Governments provide to producers.

Trade reform and global food security

Australia is committed to global food security yet millions of farmers around the world, both in Australia and in many developing countries, are unfairly disadvantaged by ongoing distortions in world agriculture and food markets which can impede the achievement of long term food security.

Trade and production distorting measures lead to greater price volatility and can create a disincentive for farmers to increase output and productivity, such measures can also encourage wasteful surplus production that in turn weakens commodity prices and returns to farmers.

Further agricultural trade policy reform is important to Australian food and agriculture sectors, and to ensure that global food security objectives are pursued in ways that do not undermine the livelihoods of farmers around the world.

World Agricultural markets – pursuing better access for Australian exporters

As part of its comprehensive agricultural trade policy agenda, the Australian Government continues to pursue multilateral agricultural trade reform.  Read more on Australian bilateral and regional negotiations; including together with other Cairns Group members. At the tenth WTO Ministerial Conference held in Nairobi 15-18 December 2015, WTO Members agreed to a significant package of measures in export competition. The most important element of this was the agreement to eliminate all agricultural export subsidies.

The Australian Government is actively working to reduce distortions in global agricultural trade and to provide better market access for Australian exporters. An important part of the Cairns Group’s contribution to the WTO’s agriculture agenda has been its technical work in the negotiations. The Cairns Group develops detailed negotiating proposals. Cairns Group officials meet regularly in Geneva to discuss negotiating positions and share information. The Cairns Group website provides further details, including communiqués from ministerial meetings.

Australia has reduced its own tariff levels and other trade distorting protections on agricultural and food products since the early 1970s. Australia’s simple average applied tariff on agriculture is 1.2 per cent. This reinforces a competitive and productive agricultural sector and ensures Australian farmers can provide high quality products to world markets without the high levels of financial support, protection and other trade-distorting practices used by some countries.

This has resulted in Australia being one of the world’s most efficient agricultural producers. This is demonstrated by the Producer Support Estimate (PSE) produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Australia’s PSE in 2012 was only 2.7 per cent, the second lowest among OECD countries.

Last Updated: 19 October 2016