4632.0.55.001 - Discussion Paper: From Nature to the Table: Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/11/2017  First Issue
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All


This section presents the first experimental step in compiling Australian accounts for crops and plantations in accordance with the SEEA AFF Framework. Some of the desired indicators within each account are not yet available and feedback is sought from users about the potential uses of these accounts, additional sources of data, and priority data gaps. See the Approach taken and future plans section.


There are two key accounts proposed in the SEEA AFF Framework for the analysis of crops and plantations:

  • Physical flow account for crops (tonnes)
  • Physical asset account for plantations (hectares).

The physical flow accounts for crops records the supply and use of food and non-food crop products in physical terms, usually based on tonnes. This includes (i) total supply of the raw product from the agriculture industry and from the rest of the world; (ii) total use of the raw product, for example intermediate consumption to the manufacturing sector or to export; (iii) total supply of the processed product; and (iv) total use of the processed product, including household consumption. Units of measurement for tables should be recorded in both raw and processed forms to enable clear links to household consumption, to support an assessment of food security and nutrition. This approach aims to ensure consistency and coherence of data that is often collected from different sources.

The asset account for plantations shows the total area of plantations by type and changes over an accounting period. This includes increases resulting from planting and decreases resulting from tree removal, natural death and losses from a variety of causes such as storm damage or disease. The scope of the asset account is cultivated plantations, excluding timber: that is, plants managed as a process of production by economic units. Timber plantations are excluded but covered in the asset accounts for forests and timber resources (see the Forestry section). All plantations of each type are included, regardless of age and whether the trees were bearing or non-bearing.


The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources provides advice to the Australian Government on cropping industries to support their continued development and growth. This involves liaison with industry, community and government, particularly through representative organisations and agencies. The Australian Government document Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper contains an overarching policy vision of a more profitable, more resilient and more sustainable agriculture sector, including cropping industries. It sets out a number of initiatives and goals, for example reducing costs, promoting export market access, building infrastructure, creating well-paying jobs and maintaining access to high quality and affordable food for all Australians.

All of these goals may be informed by environmental accounts. In particular, a comprehensive assessment of the profitability of cropping industries can be obtained through SEEA AFF measures of output and value added for these activities. Environmental accounts support productivity measurement and can be designed to assess specific policy goals, such as revealing whether a greater share of crop output is finding its way to those ‘premium markets’ targeted by policy agencies.

Crop industries provide a significant contribution to the Australian national economy and are of critical importance for regional communities. There is significant value in analysing the impacts of changes to these industries through frameworks such as SEEA AFF for purposes such as monitoring a nation’s food security, adaptation to changing climate conditions and economic and historical production trends. The asset accounts is relevant in particular to understand the potential environmental impacts of plantations and their share of land use, given plantation based agriculture involves different production processes and generally operates over a long period of time.


Physical flow account

This publication contains physical flow accounts for crops at the national level (2010-11 to 2015-16), state level for 2015-16, and two NRM regions (2010-11 to 2015-16). These are available in Tables 1, 2, 29 and 30 in the Downloads tab respectively.

Graph 1 presents the major crops produced in Australia in physical terms between 2010-11 and 2015-16. Wheat accounted for the largest amount of production in 2010-11, although in physical terms it decreased by 17% between 2010-11 and 2015-16. Wheat production decreased by 23% in 2012-13 mainly due to dry seasonal conditions.

In contrast, sugar cane has steadily increased its production in every year since 2010-11 and surpassed wheat production in 2012-13, to become in physical terms Australia's largest crop. The rise in sugar cane production can be largely explained by a recovery from the last major flooding event in Queensland in 2010-11, where the bulk of Australia’s sugar production occurs. Production of sugar was estimated at 34 million tonnes in 2015-16. However, despite wheat production being overtaken by sugar production, the asset account shows that wheat accounts for a greater proportion of land used (see "Physical asset account" below). Other major crop commodities have in physical terms remained relatively stable during this period.

GRAPH 1. PHYSICAL PRODUCTION, selected commodities, Australia, 2010-11 to 2015-16
GRAPH 1. PHYSICAL PRODUCTION, selected commodities, Australia, 2010-11 to 2015-16

Physical asset account

The Downloads tab contains the crops asset accounts nationally in Table 3 and state based in Table 4. These tables present opening stock, closing stock, and net change in stock.

The asset accounts show that wheat crops use the most land among all crops planted in Australia, accounting for 11 million hectares in 2015-16. This is 7 million hectares more than barley and 9 million hectares more than canola. Despite this, the land area devoted to wheat production has decreased every financial year since 2011-12 by an average of 448,000 hectares per year. This represents an overall decrease of 17% between 2011-12 and 2015-16. In contrast, barley has shown a slight increase in land area over the same period (Graph 2).

GRAPH 2. AREA OF LAND USED, selected crops, Australia, 2010-11 to 2015-16
GRAPH 2. AREA OF LAND USED, selected crops, Australia, 2010-11 to 2015-16

The majority of land used for wheat production in 2015-16 is in Western Australia, New South Wales and South Australia, which accounted for 41%, 26% and 16% respectively of the total land used for wheat in Australia. (Graph 3).

GRAPH 3. AREA OF LAND USED FOR WHEAT, by state, 2015-16

GRAPH 3. AREA OF LAND USED FOR WHEAT, by state, 2015-16

Footnote(s): TAS, NT and ACT combined accounted for less than 1% of area for wheat.

Among fruit and nut trees, apples reported the highest number of trees in 2015-16, followed by almonds and oranges. The total number of apple trees has steadily increased every year since 2011-12. Almonds had the largest increase in tree stock between 2014-15 to 2015-16, with a net change of 1.9 million trees. This occurred after three consecutive years of almond tree numbers falling (Graph 4). Apple trees had the next highest increase with a net change of 1.2 million trees during 2015-16. In contrast, pear trees decreased by 142,000 trees, which was the largest decrease of all fruit and nut trees in Australia over the 2015-16 period.

GRAPH 4. NUMBER OF FRUIT AND NUT TREES, selected commodities, Australia, 2010-11 to 2015-16
GRAPH 4. NUMBER OF FRUIT AND NUT TREES, selected commodities, Australia, 2010-11 to 2015-16


Physical flow account

The bulk of the available data included in the physical flow tables are production data. The selected commodities presented in these accounts enable a time series analysis.

The SEEA AFF framework recommends compiling data for eight to ten crops and separately identifying raw and processed crops. This discussion paper includes a greater number of crop production data in order to demonstrate the full potential of the accounts. No split between raw and processed crops was available at this stage. Given most products are processed before they reach households, this issue will be examined for inclusion in future releases through further data source exploration.

In terms of completing the picture of how commodities flow through the economy, harvest losses, intermediate consumption, household consumption, and changes in inventory data were not readily available in physical terms. However, existing import and export data could be utilised which will require conversion to a raw product equivalent. These additional modelling techniques will also be investigated for a future release.

Physical asset account

Data on the disaggregation of additions and reductions in stock were not available at this point in time. This will be examined for later releases.

For many fruit and nut trees, detailed data on total area is not available through ABS sources. Therefore, total trees have been used instead of total area. For more information please refer to the ABS publication, Agricultural Commodities, Australia, 2015-16 (cat. no. 7121.0).