Australia’s Hay Exports – Where Does the Hay Go To?

Australia has a proud record of exporting good quality hay. The country’s main export product is oaten hay which makes it different from other countries which mainly export alfalfa.

This has helped hay exports from Australia to remain steady over the last ten years with the Chinese market representing the most growth.

Key points
  •  WA is home to the biggest export hay businesses
  • Australian exports of hay to China have grown significantly as a result of the development of the Chinese dairy industry
  • New facilities for storage have been built in South Australia and Victoria

Export Hay on Train Line

Western Australia leads the way in the hay export market 

Western Australia produces approximately 48% of the exported hay in the country. Other significant hay exporting areas in Australia are South Australia (SA) and Victoria (VIC). 



Traditionally, the largest markets for these hay exports are Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. However, in recent years China has become central to the Australian export market. 

Growth in Chinese dairy farms impacting hay exports in Australia 

The reason that Australian exports of hay to China have grown significantly is the development of the Chinese dairy industry. The industry’s production has more than tripled since 2000.

This growth led to its hay imports from Australia increasing from around 32,000 metric tonnes (MT) in 2013 to around 300,000 MT in 2018.



Negative impacts on Australian hay exports 

Not everything has been positive concerning hay exports in Australia. There was resistance to exports in 2018. This happened when dairy farmers on the east coast were finding it difficult to feed livestock as a result of drought conditions

This increased internal requirement for hay from Western Australia meant that export volume to countries like China reduced for 2019. 

More recently, problems with international relations between Australia and China have provided a threat to all forms of trading between the two countries. These problems are due partly to concerns over China’s involvement in the origins of COVID-19. They are also due to  the recent issues in Hong Kong. 

The future of Australian hay exports 

Despite the issues that have had a negative impact on exports of hay from Australia, the future of the industry still looks positive.

Relations with China will become more settled and there are opportunities for growth especially if demand from the Chinese beef and equine markets increases. 

In Australia itself, signs are also positive. For example, hay exporter Al Dahra Australia is investing AUS$10 million in developing a new high-tech production line. This is an important improvement to its operations in Wannamal, Western Australia. 

This means that the company will be able to produce 80,000 tonnes of high-quality hay for export each year. This hay is destined for markets in the Middle East, Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea.

Overall, the hay export market in Australia seems to be flourishing right now. It has not been adversely affected by the pandemic as there is still a need to feed livestock with a good quality product in importing countries. 

In fact, exports for the first five months of 2020 were up on the same period in 2019. 531,497 MT of hay had been exported to the end of May compared to 477,361 MT in 2019. These figures suggest that hay exports are still flowing to Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan.

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