7121.0 - Agricultural Commodities, Australia, 2003-04  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/06/2005   
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This publication contains final estimates for the main commodities collected in the 2003-04 Agricultural Survey. It contains detailed statistics on crops, livestock and livestock products, land use and industry and size characteristics of farms.


No changes in this issue.


Information about ABS activities in the field of agriculture statistics is available from the Agriculture Statistics theme page on the ABS web site. To access the theme page, select 'Themes' from the menu on the home page.


Australian Bureau of Statistics
ACTAustralian Capital Territory
ANZSICAustralian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification
EVAOestimated value of agricultural operations
n.e.c.not elsewhere classified
NSWNew South Wales
NTNorthern Territory
RSErelative standard error
SASouth Australia
standard error
statistical local area
WAWestern Australia



Number of farms

The 2003-04 Agricultural Survey found that the number of farms in Australia fell by 2% in the 12 months ending 30 June 2004, down from 133,000 to 131,000 farms, continuing the decline in farm numbers seen in previous years.

The beef cattle farming industry remained the largest in terms of farm numbers, with around 27% of all farms. The mixed farming sector (grain-sheep/beef cattle) was the next largest with around 12% of all farms, followed by the grain sector with 11%.

Size of operations

EVAO of operations

The median estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of all farms was approximately $123,000 in 2003-04. Around 15% of all farms (20,200 farms) had an EVAO below $22,500, while at the other end of the scale, 14% (18,000 farms) had an EVAO above $500,000.

The majority of farms with EVAO below $22,500 were involved in beef cattle farming (11,700 farms) and sheep farming (2,000 farms) while the majority of farms with EVAO above $500,000 were involved in grain growing (5,500 farms), mixed grain-sheep/beef cattle farming (2,800 farms), dairy cattle farming (1,700 farms) and beef cattle farming (1,700 farms).

On an industry basis, the cotton, poultry for meat, grain, pig, and poultry for eggs farming industries were dominated by farms with large EVAOs, with around 76%, 54%, 38%, 34% and 32% respectively, having an EVAO greater than $500,000.

Area of operations

Most farms in 2003-04 were between 100 and 499 hectares in size, and accounted for 42,400 farms (or 32%). These farms were mainly engaged in beef cattle grazing, dairying, sheep grazing or mixed grain-sheep/beef cattle growing.

Small farms under 50 hectares were the second main size group and accounted for 25,100 farms (or 19%). These small farms were mainly engaged in grape growing, beef cattle grazing, fruit growing, vegetable growing and plant nursery operations.

Large farms of over 2,500 hectares accounted for 11% (14,700) of all farms and were mainly engaged in grazing or cropping operations.



The easing of widespread drought saw significant increases in production, with record or near record harvests reported for most of the major crops.

Graph of major crop production, Australia, 2001-02 to 2003-04

Crops for grain


Improved conditions in 2003-04 saw records for both area planted to wheat and wheat production. The total area planted increased by 17% to 13.1 million hectares. All states reported increases, with the largest reported in New South Wales (up 33% to 4.0 million hectares) and Western Australia (up 10% to 4.9 million hectares). Wheat production increased by 158% to 26.1 million tonnes, with nearly all states reporting significant increases. The largest were reported in Western Australia (up 174% to 11.1 million tonnes), and New South Wales (up 192% to 7.3 million tonnes).


The total area of barley planted increased by 16% to 4.5 million hectares. The largest areas planted were in Western Australia (1.3 million hectares) and South Australia (1.2 million hectares). Improved yields, combined with the increase in area planted, saw total production reach a record level of 10.4 million tonnes. The largest producers were Western Australia (up 135% to 3.2 million tonnes), South Australia (up 87% to 2. 7 million tonnes) and Victoria (up 375% to 2.3 million tonnes).


The total area of oats planted increased by 20% to 1.1 million hectares. This was the fourth year of increased planting. Production increased by 111% to 2.0 million tonnes, the highest level reported since 1984. The largest producers were Western Australia (up 58% to 752,000 tonnes), New South Wales (up 309% to 610,000 tonnes) and Victoria (up 103% to 507,000 tonnes).

Grain sorghum

The total area of grain sorghum planted increased by 10% to 734,000 hectares. Production increased by 37% to 2.0 million tonnes, with significant increases in Queensland and New South Wales, the main growing states.

Lupins for grain

The total area planted to lupins for grain fell by 17% to 851,000 hectares due mainly to a 16% fall in the main growing state of Western Australia. This was the sixth annual decrease in lupins plantings and reflects a longer term trend towards oats and barley. Increased yields after drought saw total production increase by 63% to 1.2 million tonnes.

Other crops


Canola plantings fell by 7% to 1.2 million hectares, with falls in New South Wales and Victoria partly offset by increases in South Australia and Western Australia. Improved conditions in many areas saw production increase to pre-drought levels. Production rose by 96% to 1.7 million tonnes, with increases reported in all the main growing states.

Cotton lint

Continuing lack of water for irrigation saw plantings of cotton fall by 7% to 227,000 hectares. Total cotton lint production was down by 13% to 317,000 tonnes. Increases in plantings and production in Queensland were more than offset by decreases in New South Wales.


Some reductions in water restrictions in 2003-04 saw the area planted to rice increase by 45% to 66,400 hectares. Rice production increased by 26% to 553,000 tonnes, but this was still less than half the harvest from 'normal' years. The production of rice is entirely dependent on access to water, and the lingering effects of the drought continued to affect the major growing regions of New South Wales.




In 2003-04 grape production rose by 35% to a record harvest of 2.0 million tonnes. The largest increases were reported in South Australia (up 44% to 886,000 tonnes), Victoria (up 31% to 532,000 tonnes) and New South Wales (up 25% to 483,000 tonnes). The total area of bearing vines increased by 5% to a record 151,000 hectares, with the main growing state of South Australia reporting an increase of 8% to a record 65,000 hectares.


Orange production decreased by 34% to 395,000 tonnes after near record production in the previous year. Decreases were reported in the three main growing states of New South Wales (down 35% to 181,000 tonnes), South Australia (down 36% to 122,000 tonnes) and Victoria (down 39% to 69,400 tonnes). The total number of bearing orange trees fell by 4% to 6.8 million trees, due mainly to an 8% fall in tree numbers in New South Wales.


Banana production fell by 3% to 257,000 tonnes, with falls in production reported in Queensland and New South Wales. The total bearing area of bananas rose by 2% to 10,900 hectares.


Apple production fell by 22% to 255,000 tonnes, with falls reported for every state except Queensland. The largest decreases in production were reported for Victoria (down 29% to 84,100 tonnes), New South Wales (down 23% to 47,700 tonnes) and Tasmania (down 29% to 37,300 tonnes. The total number of bearing apple trees rose by 6% to 8.9 million, with increases reported in all states except Tasmania.


Pear production rose by 2% to 139,000 tonnes. Victoria's production of 121,000 tonnes accounted for 87% of total Australian production. The total number of bearing pear trees rose by 6% to 1.4 million.

Graph of major fruit crop production, Australia, 2001-02 to 2003-04



Production of potatoes in 2003-04 rose by 5% to 1.3 million tonnes, due mainly to a 25% increase in production in Victoria (up to 338,000 tonnes). The only state to report a fall in production was New South Wales (down 11% to 119,000 tonnes). The total area planted to potatoes remained steady at 36,100 hectares, with increases in plantings in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland, offset by decreases in South Australia and New South Wales.


Production of tomatoes rose by 30% to 474,000 tonnes, with significant increases reported in the three main growing states of Victoria (up 28% to 270,000 tonnes), Queensland (up 33% to 125,000 tonnes) and New South Wales (up 40% to 67,100 tonnes). The area planted to tomatoes rose by 16% to 8,500 hectares, with increases reported in all states except Western Australia.


Production of carrots fell marginally to 303,000 tonnes, with falls in all states except South Australia and Tasmania. The area planted to carrots fell by 2% to 7,200 hectares, with falls in Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland partly offset by increases in South Australia and Tasmania. New South Wales remained steady.


Production of onions rose slightly to 233,000 tonnes. Increases in production in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia were partly offset by decreases in South Australia, the main producing state, and Queensland. The area planted to onions rose by 6% to 5,600 hectares, with increases reported in all states except Queensland.


Production of lettuces rose by 5% to 127,000 tonnes. Increases in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia were partly offset by falls in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. The area planted to lettuces remained steady at 6,100 hectares.

Graph of major vegetable crop production, Australia, 2002 to 2004



Cattle numbers recovered slightly in 2003-04, but were limited in their recovery by ongoing effects of drought in some areas and also by lower cow numbers available for breeding from the previous year. Sheep and lamb numbers also showed signs of recovery with better conditions contributing to improved lambing percentages. Pig numbers fell and chicken numbers were steady.

Graph of livestock numbers, Australia, 2002 to 2004

Milk cattle

The number of milk cattle remained steady at 3.1 million head at 30 June 2004. A small decrease in milking cow numbers was offset by an increase in other milk cattle. The most significant movements were reported in Queensland (up 10% to 255,000), and Tasmania (down 6% to 189,000). Victoria had the majority of milk cattle, with its herd steady at 1.9 million.

Meat cattle

Meat cattle numbers increased by 3% to 24.4 million after the badly drought-affected season in the previous year. Increases in meat cattle numbers were reported in Queensland (up 7% to 11.2 million head), Western Australia (up 8% to 2.0 million), Northern Territory (up 3% to 1.7 million) and Tasmania (up 3% to 496,000). These were partly offset by falls in Victoria (down 4% to 2.4 million) and South Australia (down 4% to 1.2 million). New South Wales remained steady at 5.4 million.

Sheep and lambs

Sheep and lamb numbers increased by 2% to 101 million, with lamb numbers up by 12%, but sheep numbers down slightly. This was due mainly to increases in the largest producing states of New South Wales (up 5% to 35.2 million) and Western Australia (up 5% to 25.1 million). However these were partly offset by falls in Victoria (down 2% to 20.0 million), South Australia (down slightly to 12.9 million) and Tasmania (down 4% to 3.2 million).

Lamb markings rose by 7% to 36.3 million, with increases reported in New South Wales (up 13% to 12.8 million), Western Australia (up 6% to 9.2 million) and Queensland (up 61% to 1.2 million). The number of ewes mated to produce these lambs was little changed from the previous year, with improved lambing percentages (up from 77.6% in 2002-03 to 83.0% in 2003-04) responsible for the increased numbers of lambs.


Australian pig numbers fell by 4% to 2.5 million, with falls reported in all states except Queensland, which rose by 4%. Trends of recent years have shown an industry move away from New South Wales as the main pig-producing state, to Queensland, which has for the first time reported a bigger herd than New South Wales.


The number of chickens for meat production remained steady at 70.7 million birds. Decreases in New South Wales and Western Australia were offset by increases in Victoria and Queensland. The number of chickens for egg production fell slightly to 12.7 million birds. Egg production remained steady at 193 million dozen.