THE 2014 DHL Export Barometer has revealed that Australian exporters are continuing to gain confidence while learning to manage a strong Australian dollar, international competition and rising raw material costs.

Based on surveys of 504 Australian exporters conducted between 29 April and 15 May 2014, the study found that exporters were also diversifying their export markets beyond China into the rest of Asia and the Middle East; while the shift away from over-dependence on the mining sector had seen stronger results from the services and agriculture industries over the last 12 months.

More than 60 per cent of exporters surveyed expected orders to increase in the coming year, up on last year’s 58%.

Exporters are also more confident about company profitability, with 50% expecting an increase in shipments.

The Barometer found that services exporters (70%) are the most confident they will increase their export orders over the next 12 months, followed by agricultural exporters (64%) then manufacturers (60%) and miners (39%).

DHL Express Oceania senior vice president Gary Edstein said he was encouraged to see exporter confidence rising.

“The DHL Export Barometer has shown that exporter confidence has steadily increased since the lows of 2012,” he said.

While sentiment is more upbeat, it is not translating to hiring confidence with only 37% of exporters intending to increase staff numbers in the coming 12 months, while only 48% of exporters achieved an increase in orders over the past 12 months, slightly down on 2013.

“These results are representative of the cautious market that we have witnessed over the past twelve months,” Mr Edstein said.

“However, all indicators point to overall strength of the Australian economy and the contribution that the exporter community makes to Australia’s prosperity.”

The Middle East is considered the most promising export market with 54% of those surveyed indicating an intention to export there, followed by the US and China (51%).

“Whilst media reports imply we are putting all the export eggs in the China basket, the Barometer clearly shows an overall diversity in our export destinations,” Tim Harcourt, J.W. Nevile Fellow in Economics at UNSW said.

“Indeed, many Australian companies use Dubai increasingly as a hub for their Middle East operations and with all this commercial interest, there is naturally a large number of Australian expatriates living in the region.”

Compared to last year, the UK and Taiwan have increased the fastest of all regions, up 10% and 11% on 2013 respectively.

The results show parity in export growth in both advanced and emerging economies.