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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 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.
Graph 16.12 shows wheat production in Australia from 1906 to 2006.
In 2005-06, farmers planted 12.7 mill. ha to wheat and harvested 25.7 mill. tonnes. Western Australia planted and harvested the most wheat followed by New South Wales and Victoria (table 16.11 and graph 16.13). In 2005-06, about 60% of Australia's wheat was 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.
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 either domestically or exported for human consumption.
In 2005-06, farmers planted 945,000 ha of oats and harvested 1.7 mill. tonnes. New South Wales produced the most oats (630,000 tonnes), just ahead of Western Australia (619,000 tonnes) (table 16.11 and graph 16.14).
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.
In 2005-06, 9.6 mill. tonnes of barley were harvested from 4.5 mill. ha (table 16.11 and graph 16.15). The largest areas planted were in Western Australia (1.2 mill. ha), South Australia (1.2 mill. ha), and New South Wales (1.1 mill. ha). Production was highest in South Australia with 2.6 mill. tonnes, followed by Western Australia and New South Wales, 2.5 mill. tonnes and 2.3 mill. tonnes of barley respectively.
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.
Grain sorghum was only grown during 2005-06 in significant quantities in Queensland and New South Wales, with the former growing 1.1 mill. tonnes on 462,000 ha (table 16.11 and graph 16.16).
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 in 2005-06 realised 370,000 tonnes (table 16.11 and graph 16.17), almost 60% of it grown in New South Wales.
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 2005-06, rice plantings covered 100,000 ha and produced 982,000 tonnes (table 16.11).
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.Potatoes - the world's favourite vegetable). South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria together produced three-quarters of the total potato crop. Tomato production ranked second with Victoria and Queensland producing almost 80% of the 449,000 tonnes grown nationally. Tasmania accounted for almost all green pea production producing 98% of the total crop of 16,900 tonnes in 2005-06 (table 16.18).
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. The most significant crops in terms of production weight in 2005-06 were oranges, apples and bananas. Table 16.19 shows the number of trees for the main types of orchard fruit, and the area under cultivation for bananas and pineapples.
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 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 accounting for 91% of the crop, oilseeds production in 2005-06 weighed in at 1.6 mill. tonnes (table 16.11 and graph 16.23). 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.
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. In 2005-06 a total of 406,000 ha of sugar cane was cut for crushing.
More than 90% (35.3 mill. tonnes) of the 38.0 mill. tonnes of sugar cane cut in 2005-06 was grown in Queensland from 384,000 ha (table 16.11).
Cattle, sheep and pigs are the main livestock grown in Australia and have been present since the earliest days of European settlement.
Table 16.24 shows the number of cattle, sheep and lambs, and pigs as at 30 June 2006.
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.
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 ha, improved pastures and use of fodder crops, rotational grazing practices and increased inputs such as fertiliser and animal health products.
Cattle numbers in Australia increased to a peak of 31.8 mill. in 1976 after which time seasonal conditions and profitability saw numbers drop dramatically. For the five years from 1984 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 but improved conditions in some regions in the following two years resulted in small increases in the national herd.
Graph 16.25 shows total cattle (milk and meat) numbers in Australia from 1886 to 2006.
Sheep numbers reached a peak of 180 mill. in Australia in 1970. 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. At 30 June 2006, flock numbers were at 92.7 mill. head. New South Wales carries the most stock with 31.7 mill. head followed by Western Australia (23.3 mill.) and Victoria (18.3 mill.) (table 16.24).
Graph 16.26 shows total sheep and lamb numbers in Australia from 1906 to 2006.
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.
Poultry farming is also 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. In June 2006, poultry farmers were holding 77.4 mill. chickens for meat production and 16.2 mill. for egg production.
Dairying is a major Australian agricultural industry. The estimated gross value of dairy production at farm-gate prices in 2005-06 was $3,343m (table 16.27), which was a 5% 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 four years have seen milk production fall 10% in this period to 10,089 ML in 2005-06 (table 16.27).
Average annual per person milk consumption has stabilised at around 100 litres since the mid-1980s. According to Dairy Australia data for 2005-06, Australians consumed 101 litres of milk, 11.8 kilograms of cheese, 6.7 kilograms of yoghurt and 3.9 kilograms of butter/blends per person.
In 2006-07 Australia exported dairy products valued at $2.3b (1.3% of total merchandise exports). Milk, cream and milk products (excluding butter and cheese) contributed $1.3b, while cheese and curd, and butter and other fats and oils derived from milk brought in $827m and $179m respectively.
Meat production and slaughterings
Tables 16.28 and 16.29 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 2006-07 increased by 7% to 2,196,000 tonnes (table 16.28).
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 2006-07, pig meat production fell 2% to 382,000 tonnes.
Table 16.31 shows the volume of exports of fresh, chilled or frozen meat. In 2006-07, beef was again Australia's major meat export with shipments of bone-out beef being the major component at 973,300 tonnes, 9% more than the previous year. Exports of bone-in mutton in 2006-07 increased by 17% to 125,100 tonnes while bone-in lamb exports increased 7% to a record 127,800 tonnes which exceeded the previous year's record.
Table 16.32 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 2006-07 declined 3% to 4,137,900 after a 31% increase the previous year. The number of live cattle exported for slaughter in 2006-07 increased 16% to 638,000 head, the highest level since 2002-03.
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 534,000 tonnes in 2005-06. 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 2005-06 fell 5% to $2,092.5m (table 16.34), about 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 16.35. They exclude wool received by brokers on which tax had already been paid by other dealers (private buyers) or brokers.