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In Australia, cereals are divided into autumn-winter-spring growing (winter cereals) and spring-summer-autumn growing (summer cereals). In temperate regions winter cereals such as wheat, oats, barley and rye are often grown in rotation with pastures, such as subterranean clover, medics or lucerne, and with other winter crops such as canola, field peas and lupins. Rice, maize and sorghum are summer cereals, often being grown in rotation with winter cereals in some areas.
Wheat is Australia's largest crop. It is produced in all states but primarily on the mainland in a narrow crescent known as the wheat belt. Inland of the Great Dividing Range, the wheat belt stretches in a curve from central Queensland through New South Wales, Victoria and southern South Australia. In Western Australia, the wheat belt continues around the south-west of the state and some way north, along the western side of the continent.
Most of Australia's wheat is exported for human consumption. A small proportion of production is used domestically for human consumption, with lower quality grain being used for domestic stock feed.
New varieties of wheat have enabled it to be grown in more marginal areas in recent years. In particular the development of dual purpose winter wheat varieties which, like oats, allow grazing of the plant up to a few months prior to harvest, have become very popular in some areas.
While severe drought conditions across Australia more than halved wheat production in 2002-03, increased plantings overall and an excellent season in Western Australia resulted in a record production of 26.1 million (mill.) tonnes in 2003-04 (table 14.13). However, this high mark was not sustained as less than ideal conditions, especially in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, saw the national harvest in 2004-05 decline 16%, despite a 3% increase in area planted. New South Wales wheat farmers suffered a small fall in yield but were able to boost production by 3%.
Graph 14.14 shows that variability in wheat yields is a part of life for wheat growers, with dry periods and, less commonly, floods resulting in significant falls in production approximately every ten years over the past 100 years.
Oats are traditionally grown in moist, temperate regions. However, in recent years improved varieties and management practices have enabled oats to be grown over a wider range of soil and climatic conditions. Oats have a high fodder feed value and, with the exception of recently developed dual purpose varieties of wheat, produce a greater bulk of growth than other winter cereals. They need less cultivation, and respond well to superphosphates and nitrogen. Oats have two main uses - as a grain crop, and as a fodder crop. Fodder crops can either be grazed in the initial stages of growth and then locked up for a period prior to harvesting for grain, or else mown and baled for hay or cut for chaff.
The majority of Australian oats harvested for grain is used domestically for stock feed purposes. A small proportion of high quality grain is used for human consumption. A small proportion of grain production is exported for human consumption.
In 2004-05 the total area of oats planted fell by 18% to 894,000 ha after four years of increased plantings (table 14.15). With plantings down and conditions impacting on yield, total production fell 36% to 1.3 mill. tonnes. Victoria suffered the biggest drop, down 44% while production in Western Australia and New South Wales fell 39% and 30% respectively.
This cereal contains two main groups of varieties, 2-row and 6-row (the number of rows referring to the number of rows of seed on each stalk). The former is generally, but not exclusively, preferred for malting purposes. Barley is grown principally as a grain crop, although in some areas it is used as a fodder crop for grazing, with grain being subsequently harvested if conditions are suitable. It is often grown as a rotation crop with wheat, oats and pasture. As barley has a short growing period, it may provide quick grazing or timely fodder supplies when other sources are not available. Barley grain may be crushed to meal for stock feed or sold for malting.
The total area of barley planted increased by 4% to 4.6 mill. ha in 2004-05, the fifth year of increased plantings (table 14.16). The largest areas planted were in Western Australia (1.3 mill. ha) and South Australia (1.3 mill. ha). However, production in these states fell as it did in three other states bringing the total harvest down by 25% to 7.7 mill. tonnes.
The sorghums are summer growing crops which are used in a number of ways: grain sorghum for grain; sweet or fodder sorghum, Sudan grass and Columbus grass for silage, green feed and grazing; and broom millet for brooms and brushware. However, the grain is used primarily as stock feed and is an important source for supplementing other coarse grains for this purpose.
In 2004-05, grain sorghum was one of only two of the major crops to increase production, albeit marginally (table 14.17). A 19% increase in New South Wales production was offset by a 10% decrease in Queensland.
Maize is a summer cereal requiring specific soil and climatic conditions. The majority of maize used for grain is grown in the south-east and Atherton Tablelands regions of Queensland, and the north coast, northern slopes and tablelands, and the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area regions in New South Wales. Small amounts are grown for green feed and silage in association with the dairy industry.
Maize production increased by 6% in 2004-05 to 420,000 tonnes (table 14.18).
Almost all of Australia's rice is grown in New South Wales, with production centred in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Rice production is dependent on supplies of irrigation water and, therefore, is significantly affected by reductions in irrigation water allocations available to farmers.
In 2004-05, rice plantings fell by 39% to 339,000 tonnes due to 23% less plantings and cold conditions at a critical stage of plant development (table 14.19).
Australia produces an extremely wide variety of vegetables, driven largely by demand from a cosmopolitan population. Many vegetables, such as spring onions, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes are grown close to major capital cities, taking advantage of proximity to markets and low transport costs. However, the majority of vegetables are produced in the major irrigation areas of each state and territory, where access to land and water are the key drivers of investment.
In 2004-05 the area sown to vegetables was 123,000 ha, a decrease of 2% from the previous year. Potatoes were by far the largest vegetable crop in terms of area and production, accounting for 30% of the total area of vegetables planted in 2004-05 (tables 14.20 and 14.21). South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria together produced three-quarters of the total potato crop in 2004-05. Tomatoes ranked second with Victoria producing nearly 60% of the 408,000 tonnes grown nationally. Tasmania accounted for almost all green pea production, producing 92% of the total crop, or 26,500 tonnes in 2004-05.
Fruit (excluding grapes)
A wide variety of fruit is grown in Australia, ranging from pineapples, mangoes and pawpaws in the tropics to pome, stone and berry fruits in temperate regions. Table 14.22 shows the number of trees for the main types of orchard fruit, and the area under cultivation for bananas and pineapples.
Production of apples increased 26% in 2004-05 to 326,600 tonnes (table 14.22). The most significant crops in terms of gross value of production are apples, bananas and oranges (table 14.23).
Grapes are a temperate crop requiring predominantly winter rainfall and warm to hot summer conditions for ripening. Almost all grape production in Australia depends on irrigation water as a supplement to rainfall. An absence of late-spring frosts is essential if the loss of the developing fruit is to be prevented. Grapes are grown for winemaking, drying, and to a lesser extent, for table use. The better known grape producing areas include the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Riverland, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra (all in South Australia); Sunraysia and the Yarra Valley (Victoria); the Hunter and Riverina (New South Wales); the Swan Valley and Margaret River (Western Australia); and the Tamar Valley and Coal River Valley (Tasmania).
The gross value of grape production for 2004-05 fell by 11% from the previous year, to $1,508m. Tables 14.24 and 14.25 show the area of vines and the quantity of grapes produced.
The oilseeds industry is a relatively young industry by Australian agricultural standards. The specialist oilseed crops grown include sunflower, soybeans, canola and safflower. Sunflower and soybeans are summer crops while the others are winter crops. In Australia, oilseeds are crushed for their oil, which is used for edible and industrial purposes, and in protein meals for livestock feeds.
The 1990s saw the emergence of canola as the main oilseed crop, with production increasing from around 70,000 tonnes in 1990-91 to a high of 2.8 mill. tonnes in 1999-2000. With canola again accounting for 93% of the crop, oilseeds production in 2004-05 of 1.7 mill. tonnes was 9% less than the previous year's harvest (table 14.26). Before the emergence of canola, the main specialist oilseed crop was sunflower seed. Peanuts and cotton are also major sources of oil as a by-product to their main outputs, which are food and fibre respectively.
Cotton is grown mainly in inland areas of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, primarily for its fibre (lint), and relies heavily on irrigation water to produce profitable yields. When the cotton is mature, seed cotton is taken to a gin where it is separated (ginned) into cotton lint and cotton seed. The lint is used for yarn while the cotton seed is further processed at an oil mill, where the short fibres (linters) remaining on the cotton seed after ginning are removed. These fibres are too short to make into cloth, but are used for wadding, upholstery and paper. The seeds are then separated into kernels and hulls. The hulls are used for stock feed and as fertiliser, while the kernels are crushed to extract oil. The oilcake residue (crushed kernels) is ground into meal, which is a protein roughage, and is used as a stock feed.
The estimated gross value of cotton lint and cotton seed in 2004-05 was $945.1m, a 26% increase on the previous year (table 14.27).
Crops and pastures cut for hay or silage
To counter Australia's seasonal conditions and unreliable rainfall, many farmers use hay and silage as methods of fodder conservation to supplement pasture and other natural sources of stockfeed.
Considerable areas are devoted to fodder crops and sown pastures, which are either used for grazing (as green feed) or harvested and conserved as hay or silage (table 14.28).
Sugar cane is grown commercially in Australia along the east coast over a distance of more than 2,000 kilometres from Maclean in northern New South Wales to Mossman in Queensland. More recently, it has also been grown in Western Australia.
More than 90% of sugar cane production occurs in Queensland (table 14.29), with 75% of the crop grown north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
Cattle, sheep and pigs are the main livestock grown in Australia and have been present since the earliest days of European settlement.
Cattle farming occurs in all states and territories. While dairy cattle are restricted mainly to southern and coastal districts, beef cattle are concentrated in Queensland and New South Wales.
Cattle numbers in Australia increased slowly during the 1960s and 1970s, despite seasonal changes and heavy slaughterings, to a peak of 31.8 mill. in 1976 (graph 14.33). Beef cattle production is often combined with cropping, dairying and sheep. In the northern half of Australia, cattle properties and herd sizes are very large, pastures are generally unimproved, fodder crops are rare and beef is usually the only product. The industry is more intensive in the south, with higher stocking rates per hectare, improved pastures and use of fodder crops, use of rotational grazing practices and increased inputs such as fertiliser and animal health products.
Drought conditions in the early-1980s led to a decline in the beef herd until 1984. For the next five years the size of the herd remained relatively stable. Between 1989 and 1998 cattle numbers increased gradually, despite unfavourable weather conditions continuing in many parts of Australia. After a slight decline in 1999, cattle numbers increased to a high of 27.9 mill. in 2002. Dry conditions over much of the country in 2002-03 saw cattle numbers fall by 4% to 26.7 mill. However, improved conditions in some regions resulted in numbers increasing by 3% to 27.5 mill. in 2003-04 and a further 1% to 27.8 mill. in 2004-05.
Tables 14.31 and 14.32 show the number of cattle, by purpose and the number of cattle, by state and territory at 30 June for the period 2001-2005.
Sheep numbers reached a peak of 180 mill. in Australia in 1970 (graph 14.36). In general, numbers have fallen since then. Poor market prospects for wool after 1990 had a marked impact on the flock size with sheep numbers falling rapidly until 1995, after which there was a gradual decline until 1999. By 30 June 2003, sheep and lambs had fallen to 99.3 mill. with numbers being severely affected by drought conditions throughout much of the country. Improved conditions in 2003-04 saw numbers increase by 2% but in 2004-05 more climatic difficulties, mainly in New South Wales, caused a marginal fall in the total flock (tables 14.34 and 14.35).
Pig farming is a highly intensive industry. The majority of pigs are grown in specially designed sheds which provide a controlled environment conducive to the efficient production of large numbers of animals. Recent changes in the Australian pig industry have seen many smaller producers leave the industry and existing producers increase their size of operations in an attempt to remain viable. Over the last three years, the number of establishments reporting pigs has fallen 15% to 2,426 in 2004-05. In the same period, numbers of pigs have fallen 5% to 2.5 mill. largely due to the increased feed grain costs caused by the recent drought (table 14.37).
Poultry farming is a highly intensive industry, with the majority of poultry raised in large sheds which provide the birds with a stable environment protected from the elements. The poultry farming industry consists of two streams - meat production and egg production - both being major users of feed grains. Although the industry grew through the 1990's, there has been a 10% decline in the number of birds over the three years to 30 June 2005 (table 14.38).
Dairying is a major Australian agricultural industry. The estimated gross value of dairy production at farm-gate prices in 2004-05 was $3,194m (table 14.39), which was a 14% increase on the previous year and represented 9% of the gross value of agricultural production.
Most dairy production occurs in high rainfall coastal fringe areas where climate and natural resources allow production to be based on year-round pasture grazing. This enables efficient, low-cost milk production. With the exception of several inland river schemes, pasture growth generally depends on natural rainfall. Feedlot-based dairying is expanding, although it remains uncommon.
Milk production rose steadily until 1999-2000. Less favourable seasonal conditions and farm exits associated with deregulation of the milk industry saw production decrease by 3% to 10,545 million litres (ML) in 2000-01, before recovering to 11,271 ML in 2001-02. Dry seasonal conditions, limiting the growth of pastures and the availability of fodder crops over the last three years have seen milk production drop to 10,125 ML in 2004-05 (table 14.39).
Average annual per person milk consumption has stabilised at around 100 litres since the mid-1980s. According to Dairy Australia data for 2004-05, Australians consumed 100 litres of milk, 11.7 kilograms of cheese and 6.2 kilograms of yoghurt per person.
In 2005-06 Australia exported dairy products valued at $2.4b (1.6% of total merchandise exports). Milk, cream and milk products (excluding butter and cheese) contributed $1.4b, while cheese and curd, and butter and other fats and oils derived from milk brought in $838m and $225m respectively.
Meat production and slaughterings
Tables 14.40 and 14.41 show details of slaughtering and meat production from abattoirs, and from commercial poultry and other slaughtering establishments. They include estimates of animals slaughtered on farms and by country butchers. The data relate only to slaughtering for human consumption and do not include animals condemned or those killed for boiling down.
Production of beef in 2005-06 decreased by 4% to 2,050,000 tonnes.
Changing patterns in both consumer demand, and sheep and lamb supply have seen production of lamb meat exceed production of mutton for each of the past seven years. In 2005-06 mutton production increased by 3% to 244,000 tonnes and lamb production increased by 8% to 382,000 tonnes.
Significant changes have taken place in the pig meat producing industry in recent years. Capital investment and corporate takeovers have seen the emergence of a few large companies producing a significant proportion of all pig meat sold in Australia. These moves, and the trend to more intensive and efficient production techniques, have seen pig meat production rise steadily since the mid-1970s when production dipped to a low of 174,000 tonnes. In 2005-06, pig meat production remained steady at 389,000 tonnes.
Table 14.42 shows the gross value of livestock slaughterings over recent years. Following five years of increases, the total value of slaughterings and other disposals decreased by 7% in 2002-03. Since then, mainly due to increases in the value of cattle and calves, total value of slaughterings and other disposals has increased 13%.
The largest customers for Australian beef in recent years have been United States of America, Japan and the Republic of (South) Korea. In 2005-06, Japan was the main customer for Australian beef with 403,200 tonnes purchased, 8% less than the previous year's shipment. The United States of America was Australia's second largest customer with 302,300 tonnes purchased, down 18% on the previous year. The Republic of (South) Korea was the third largest importer of Australian beef, purchasing 141,900 tonnes.
Table 14.43 shows the volume of exports of fresh, chilled or frozen meat. In 2005-06, beef was again Australia's major meat export with shipments of bone-out beef being the major component at 891,700 tonnes, 7% less than the previous year. Exports of bone-in mutton in 2005-06 increased by 5% to 107,100 tonnes while bone-in lamb exports increased 13% to a record 119,900 tonnes which surpassed the previous year's record.
Table 14.44 shows the number, gross weight, gross value and unit value of live sheep and cattle exported for slaughter. The number of live sheep exported for slaughter in 2005-06 increased 31% to 4,247,700 following three years of declining trade. The number of live cattle exported for slaughter in 2005-06 fell 4% to 550,900 head, the lowest level in over a decade.
Australia is the world's largest wool producer, accounting for about a quarter of total production. Wool production has been declining in Australia and the world for the past ten years. Since 1990 Australian wool production has halved, to around 520,000 tonnes in 2004-05. Almost all of Australia's wool is exported, the major markets being China, Italy, India and Taiwan.
Shorn greasy wool contains an appreciable amount of grease, dirt, vegetable matter and other material. The exact quantities of these impurities in the fleece vary with climatic and pastoral conditions, seasonal fluctuations and the breed and condition of the sheep. It is, however, the clean wool fibre that is ultimately consumed by the textile industry, and the term 'clean yield' is used to express the net wool fibre content present in greasy wool.
The gross value of wool produced in 2004-05 fell 8% to $2,195.5m (table 14.45), a little more than a third the value recorded in 1988-89 ($5.9b), the peak year in the wool boom of the 1980s.
The total amounts of taxable wool received by brokers and purchased by dealers in recent years are shown in table 14.46. They exclude wool received by brokers on which tax had already been paid by other dealers (private buyers) or brokers.