Coal ships queued up at Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay Coal loading facilities in Queensland. Picture: Daryl Wright
Coal ships queued up at Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay Coal loading facilities in Queensland. Picture: Daryl Wright

Coal drives exports to $74 billion

QUEENSLAND exports have hit a record $74 billion and China is now soaking up almost a third of the state's products at $22 billion, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

The trade surplus for the 2017-18 year however, slumped to $26.4 billion, on the back of poor results in the first half of the year.

Stronger agricultural earnings as well as the strong revival in coal underpin the results but economists are warning the drought could start to have a dragging effect on the economy.

The Palaszczuk Government said growing machinery and equipment imports were generally seen as a further sign of confidence.

"The fact a lot of this machinery is headed for mines like Amrun and Byerwen reflects increasing production and is encouraging,'' a spokesman said.

Economist Nick Behrens said it was a "good picture'' for Queensland with exports increasing. Imports were also increasing and at a faster rate, he said.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland said the Chinese market had been a key driver of the services export sector which relies heavily on Chinese tourists and international students driving further investment in the state's infrastructure, property and education sectors.

CCIQ's head of industry Dan Petrie said the data reflected a trade relationship that would transform the state over the coming decade.

"Queensland's trade relationship with China is not only diversified through the range of soft and hard commodities that leave the state's ports on a monthly basis but continues to gain strength on the back of Chinese tourists finding their way to these shores in record numbers,'' he said.

ABS data also showed a 22 per cent increase in exploration spending for minerals and petroleum over the past 12 months.

Total investment in exploration for minerals and petroleum was $442.1 million last financial year - an $80 million or 22 per cent increase - compared to 2016-17.

The Queensland Resources Council said during 2017-18, gold exploration was up 21 per cent to $61.7 million.

Copper exploration increased by 41 per cent to 53.8 million and petroleum exploration increased by 5 per cent to $162.6 million.

QRC said the strongest growth was in base metals - copper, silver, lead, zinc, nickel and cobalt with exploration increasing by 53 per cent over the 2017-18 financial year from $57.6 million to $88 million.