AUSTRALIAN exporters are feeling the impact of the strong dollar, but are maintaining employment levels and plan to increase wages in the coming year, according to the 2011 DHL Australian Export Barometer.
The annual survey of Australian exporters found that exchange rates are challenging 81 per cent of exporters, affecting their ability to compete with overseas rivals, the prices they charge, sales revenue and profit.
In addition to the see-sawing dollar, natural disasters at home and overseas have caused significant economic disruption to 20 per cent of exporters with the tourism sector most affected by the Queensland and Victoria floods.
Currency and natural crises have impacted export levels with only 42 per cent of exporters reporting increased orders in the last 12 months against a predicted 69 per cent.
To meet expected demand, exporters plan to maintain high employment levels with 41 per cent looking to increase the number of full time staff and 67 per cent expecting that wages will increase in the next 12 months. The mining sector is most confident of increasing staff numbers and salaries.
DHL Express Oceania senior vice president Gary Edstein says exporters have had a difficult year, but online commerce is presenting growth opportunities.
“Half of the exporters surveyed reported an increase in the levels of online commerce they have undertaken in the last year. Although competition has increased, e-commerce is making it easier for exporters to reach out to a wider market and will help many businesses react to opportunities in a timely and efficient way,” he says.
Although confidence has taken a hit, exporters are looking to the positives with almost 50 per cent anticipating orders to increase in the next 12 months. Exporters based in Western Australia and those in the mining industry are most confident, with small businesses and companies with less than five years’ experience more optimistic than medium and large organisations.
Austrade chief economist Tim Harcourt says the high exchange rate is dampening exporter confidence but the majority are pragmatic and flexible, expecting increased sales in the developing nations and emerging markets of China, India and Latin America to keep them going.
“As in the GFC, exporters are proving to be stable and loyal employers in terms of job security and wage increases and are devising new techniques, including online outreach, to maintain their global market share. Exporters are also consolidating their focus with 27 per cent of businesses exporting to just one region compared to 21 per cent in 2010,” says Harcourt.
North America and South East Asia remain the top export destinations but China has replaced the UK in the top five export destinations for the first time.
China also has the highest growth expectations of all countries and is expected to be the lead export nation by 2016.
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