Total exports fell to A$17.9 billion in September. Overseas sales account for 20 percent of Australia's economy. Farm shipments, such as meat, sugar, wheat and wool, rose 7 percent. Exports of non-rural goods, which include minerals and ores, fell 7 percent.
Total imports dropped to A$19.8 billion in September. Imports of capital goods, which include business machinery, slipped 1 percent. Imports of intermediate goods, which include fuel, fell 7 percent and imports of consumer goods rose 1 percent.
A surge in demand for raw materials, led by China and India, has boosted prices of copper, iron ore and coal, stoking earnings for Australian exporters. Still, those same miners are struggling to overcome inadequate rail and port networks in Australia that have impeded their ability to ship more products to customers.
Australia's government cut its estimate for exports of minerals and energy because of transport delays. Shipments of commodities are expected to be A$112.2 billion in 2007-08, down from the A$117.5 billion forecast in June, the government said in September.
The worst drought on record will also hinder exports. The government cut its wheat-harvest forecast by 22 percent this week, and also reduced estimates for barley and canola crops. Last year's wheat harvest was the smallest in 12 years.
On top of that, the Australian dollar has increased 18 percent against its U.S. counterpart this year, making the nation's manufactured products more expensive on global markets. It also means companies that sell exports priced in U.S. dollars receive smaller returns when earnings are bought home.