1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2008
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Australian agriculture is fundamentally based on extensive pastoral and cropping activities. However, diversification into intensive livestock and horticultural industries is increasing. While Australian agriculture no longer contributes a large share to gross domestic product - averaging around 3% in recent years - it utilises a large proportion of natural resources, accounting for about 65% of water use and almost 60% of Australia's land area.
Australia's agricultural businesses are mainly engaged in either beef cattle farming, dairy cattle farming, sheep farming, grain growing, or a mixture of two or more of these activities. The wet summer conditions of northern Australia are suited to beef cattle grazing in inland areas and the growing of sugar and tropical fruits in coastal areas while drier summer conditions in the south favour dryland cereal farming, sheep grazing and dairy cattle (in the higher rainfall areas), as well as beef cattle farming. In recent times, the most valuable commodities produced by Australian farmers have been beef and veal, wheat, milk, fruit and nuts, lamb and mutton, wool, and vegetables.
Much of this produce is exported, with Australian wool, beef, wheat, and dairy products contributing significantly to global markets. Australia is also an important source of cotton and sugar. The main customers for exports of agricultural commodities include Japan, the United States of America, China, the Republic of (South) Korea, Indonesia and the Middle East.
In this chapter, the major source of statistics for 2005-06 on land use, commodity production and livestock numbers is the periodic Agricultural Census, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Information relating to agricultural finance is obtained from the annual Australian Agricultural and Grazing Industries Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
The chapter contains the article Potatoes - the world's favourite vegetable, marking the International Year of the Potato 2008. The article Irrigation on Australian farms concludes the chapter.