PORT of Newcastle has reported a 32% decrease in trade value in 2023 despite an increase in yearly trade volumes.

The port said a shift in weather and demand has had a “significant impact” on its 2023 trade results.

Total trade volume for the year came to 152.9 million tonnes, which was a 6% increase compared with 2022 volumes. Trade value dropped to $48 billion.

Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody said the overall trade value was not representative of a reduction in import and export volumes across diversified trade.

Steel exports were up 69% to 63,213 tonnes and fuel imports were up 11% to just over 2 million tonnes.

“Overall, Port of Newcastle had an increase of almost 5% on total trade volume, which can be attributed to the return of China to the Australian coal market, representing a quarter of all coal exports,” Mr Carmody said.

“The port’s exposure to carrying volume risk is evident, put simply, if China did not lift their restrictions, the port’s volumes would have been the lowest experienced in several years.

“For Port of Newcastle and our region, we need to ensure we continue down our path of diversification. Last year’s results highlight how we cannot continue to rely on a single commodity, we cannot wait and relive what occurred when the steel industry left Newcastle.”

And executive manager of business development Matthew Swan said a reduction in diversified trade export volumes reflected the current challenges facing the market.

“After three years of ideal harvest conditions for agribusiness, the shift to El Niño has had a direct impact on our farmers, with wheat exports down 34% to 1.7 million tonnes, with volumes subdued for CY2024” Mr Swan said.

“It’s the first-time wheat has been under two million tonnes since 2021.

“Meals and grain exports continued to perform well, with a 31% increase in volumes (629,006 tonnes), and mineral concentrates experienced modest growth, with a total 397,000 tonnes exported,” he said.

Port of Newcastle said the 2023 trade figures came as the port had been vocal in the need for the port and region to accelerate diversification.

“2024 will be a year of consolidation and focus, one that focuses on expanding our existing container trade relationships, supporting wind and solar energy projects, along with development of the Clean Energy Precinct” Mr Carmody said.