Australian exporters are optimistic about business conditions, with a new survey showing more than half expect to increase export orders this year.
Despite the imposition of the carbon tax and the high Australian dollar, more exporters are also expecting profits to increase in 2012, the DHL Export Barometer survey found.
The survey of nearly 800 small, medium and large companies across industries including mining, manufacturing, agriculture, food and professional services, found the strong Aussie dollar has hurt nearly two-thirds of exporters in some way.
Some 50 per cent said the strong Australian dollar was reducing their ability to compete against overseas businesses. Yet businesses are responding to the challenge by innovating and refining products, seeking new markets and taking advantage of the exchange rate by importing inputs.
Only 16 per cent said they would consider moving production offshore.
University of New South Wales economist professor Tim Harcourt, a former Austrade economist and author of the Barometer survey series, said confidence among exporters reached a record low 2011, when only 48 per cent expected to increase their export orders.
In 2012, 57 per cent expected to grow orders.
Professor Harcourt said 72 per cent of exporters were now also importers, compared with a historical average of around 45 per cent.
"The general media sentiment that there is one group in the economy called exporters and another called importers is nonsense," he said.
The biggest increase in optimism came from the mining sector, with 67 per cent of companies expecting to lift profitability in 2012, up from 53 per cent in 2011 - despite concerns about a slowdown in Chinese economic growth and lower commodity prices.
Australian exporters have done little to adjust to the carbon tax, despite 71 per cent saying the $23 a tonne starting price on major emitters was too high.
The survey found 90 per cent of exporters made no changes to reduce their carbon footprint, with 59 per cent saying they would compensate by increasing their prices.
While China and India remained the key markets for exporters, Indonesia had grown in significance and topped the list of nations identified as the biggest growth markets.
New Zealand has also emerged as an important market, topping the list of current export destinations.
Professor Harcourt said the improved confidence in the survey came after a significant slump in exporter outlooks a year earlier but that the 2012 result signalled a longer-term shift.
"I think Australian exporters have adjusted to a high exchange rate economy and Australians have adjusted: we are going to export to Asia, we are going to buy online from America and we are going to take our holidays in Italy," he said.
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