Interacting factors such as the opening up of new land, the development of transport facilities and profitable markets, and technical and scientific achievements have, along with climate and soil types, shaped the evolution of Australian agriculture.
Until the late-1950s, agricultural products accounted for more than 80% of the value of Australia's exports. Since then, despite increasing agricultural output, that proportion has declined markedly as the Australian economy has become increasingly diverse. For each year during the five years to June 2002, exports from the agriculture industry averaged just under 9% of the total trade. The quantity and value of production have expanded in the mining, manufacturing and, in recent years, the service industries. The direct contribution of agriculture to Australia's gross domestic product has remained steady at around 3% throughout the last decade. Agriculture is a vital sector occupying a significant place in global rural trade, with wool, beef, wheat, cotton and sugar being particularly important. Australia is also an important source of dairy produce, fruit, rice and flowers.
The major source of statistics on land use, commodity production and livestock numbers in this chapter is the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Agricultural Survey, a large sample survey conducted Australia-wide. Every five years, the survey is replaced by the Agricultural Census, with the last census having been conducted in 2001, coinciding with the 2001 Census of Population and Housing.
Agriculture concludes with an article The Australian dairy industry.