7111.0 - Principal Agricultural Commodities, Australia, Preliminary, 1998-99  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/07/1999   
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July 30, 1999
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)

Wheat production up, beef herds down - ABS

An increase in wheat production, a fall in the nation's beef cattle herd but little change in the sheep flock are the main features of preliminary Agricultural Commodity Survey estimates for the 1998-99 year, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

There were record wheat harvests in a number of States during 1998-99 with the area sown up 8% to 11.2 million hectares and total production up 10% to 21.1 million tonnes. South Australia's farmers reported a record 1.7 million hectares sown and a record harvest of 3.2 million tonnes. Queensland's growers sowed a record 1.1 million hectares. Western Australia had a record harvest of 8.1 million tonnes.

Beef cattle numbers dropped significantly with falls reported in all States and Territories. The current estimate of 22.7 million head is the smallest since 1993 with Queensland reporting the biggest single drop in numbers, down 470,000 (4%) to 10.1 million.

Sheep and lamb numbers remain steady at around 117 million. There is no evidence of the continuation of the significant drops that were seen from 1990 to 1995 as a result of the removal of the wool floor price. While matings intentions are similar to previous years, there is a significant move toward the dual purpose breeds used for producing prime lambs (the survey pre-dates the recent controversy over US controls on lamb imports).

The dairy herd continues to grow, and at 31 March 1999 was reported to be 3.2 million. This is the seventh year of significant growth in the numbers of dairy cattle. Victoria has the largest herd with 1.9 million cattle, 60% of the nation's total.

Pig numbers dropped by 200,000 to 2.6 million. The largest fall was reported in NSW where numbers fell by 86,000 to 763,000. This continues a cycle of rises and falls in pig numbers over the past 10 years.

Details are in Principal Agricultural Commodities Australia (Preliminary) 1998-99 (cat. no. 7111.0) available from ABS bookshops in all capital cities. A summary of findings of the publication can be found on this site. The ABS encourages media organisations with online news services to link to the summary of findings. Please phone us if you need assistance to do this.