ABS puts lithium under the microscope

For the first time ever, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has broken out export data for lithium and revealed that it is really only an industry that started becoming significant in 2022.

The data means that for the first time we have authoritative data on export values which will help give the rapidly growing sector the right context.

The brief analysis was released the same day (Thursday) as the June trade data showing a record performance for the month, quarter and year.

And for lithium June was a record month as well.

The ABS said exports of lithium concentrates in June reached a record high of $1.163 billion, up a huge $1.073 billion (or 1,189%) from June 2021.

The extent of the surge can be seen from the ABS analysis which shows that for most of 2021, monthly lithium exports did not exceed $250 million.

“Exports values started to increase rapidly from late 2021, where it more than doubled from November to December 2021,” the ABS said.

“From April 2022 to May 2022, exports of lithium almost doubled again, and in June 2022 surpassed $1 billion for the first time.”

The performance in the three months to June 2022 emphasise the rapid growth in the industry (which is based in WA at the moment).

The ABS said that total lithium exports were $2.632 billion, up $2.318 billion (737%) from the June quarter 2021.

Western Australia has accounted for over 99% of Australian lithium exports in each month since January 2021.

The ABS also pointed out that the increase in lithium exports was due to increases in both quantity and unit value.

“Since January 2021, the unit value increased more than fourfold reflecting the pickup in global demand for lithium.”

Most Australian lithium is exported to China, accounting for over 85% of total value in each month of 2021 and over 94% in each month of 2022 (year to date).

In June this year, $1.128 billion worth of lithium was exported to China, accounting for 97% of the total lithium exports for that month, according to the ABS.