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An increase in Australia’s resources export revenue has underpinned a 29 per cent improvement in the value of Australia’s goods exports in March compared with the previous month.

Based on preliminary estimates for Australian international merchandise released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), exports of goods increased to $36.1 billion in March 2020 from the revised February 2020 merchandise trade estimate of $28 billion.

The increase in March was predominantly driven by a $4.7 billion (20 per cent) increase in the value of exports of non-rural goods.

This has included growth in Australia’s iron ore exports to support China’s rebounding economy, as well as increases in the value of Australia’s gold, coal and petroleum exports.

A $2.4 billion increase (225 per cent) in the value of exports of non-monetary gold was another major contributor, with Hong Kong and the United Kingdom the major importers of non-monetary gold from Australia.

Australian gold prices hit seven-year highs in April, surpassing $2700 an ounce from the $2500 mark in mid-March.

Gold prices are expected to remain on the upward slope, with the Bank of America recently raising its gold price forecast to $US3000 ($4751.10) an ounce over the next 18 months.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said the ABS data confirmed the importance of keeping Australia’s mining industry operating during the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic challenges.

“Australia’s mining industry has been able to deliver this result for the nation while implementing strict and comprehensive health and safety protocols to protect workers, families and local communities,” she said.

“Keeping mining open for business during this challenging time not only protects 1.1 million jobs – it enables the industry to keep paying taxes and royalties which help fund government assistance programs for workers and small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The large increase in merchandise exports during March comes after declines in January and February 2020.

The preliminary estimates for Australian international merchandise trade are compiled from administrative data (customs records) sourced from the Department of Home Affairs and are subject to revision. ABS will publish the final March monthly estimates on May 7.