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Agricultural Commodities, Australia

Statistics on the production of agricultural commodities including cereal and broadacre crops, fruit and vegetables and livestock on Australian farms

Reference period
2019-20 financial year

Key statistics

  • 377 million hectares of agricultural land, down 2% from 2018-19
  • 87,800 agricultural businesses, down 2%
  • 61 million tonnes of cereal and broadacre crops produced, down 8%
  • 64 million sheep and lambs on farms at 30 June 2020, down 3%
  • 21 million beef cattle at 30 June 2020, down 6%

Australian farms

At 30 June 2020 there were:

  • 377 million hectares of agricultural land, down 2% from 2018-19
  • 87,800 agricultural businesses, down 2%

Land use on Australian farms

Most agricultural land was used for agricultural production:

  • 325 million hectares were used for grazing, down 2% from 2018-19
  • 31 million hectares used for crops, a slight increase from 2018-19
  • 700,000 hectares for forestry plantation, down 14%
  • 19 million hectares was not used for agricultural production, with 41% set aside for conservation/protection purposes.

Cereal and other broadacre crops

Drought in the eastern states and poor seasonal conditions in Western Australia impacted on the production of cereal and other broadacre crops in 2019-20. These decreases were partially offset by an increase in production in Victoria where conditions were more favourable.

In 2019-20, there were:

  • 61 million tonnes of cereal and broadacre crops produced, down 8% nationally and down 31% in Western Australia from 2018-19
  • 21 million hectares of cereal and broadacre crops planted (down 3%)
  • 28,800 businesses growing cereal and broadacre crops (down 6%)

Reductions in water availability and increases in its cost were evident on Australia's cotton production during 2019-20 with production dropping 72% to 115 million kilograms, the lowest level since 1982-83.

Wheat continues to be the largest broadacre crop in Australia with 14 million tonnes harvested in 2019-20, despite a drop in production from 2018-19 (down 18%), and at its lowest level since 2007-08. Favourable growing conditions saw Victorian wheat production increase in 2019-20, in contrast to all other states; up 63% to 4 million tonnes.

Other key cereal and broadacre crops:

  • Barley; 10.1 million tonnes produced, up 15%
  • Canola; 2.3 million tonnes, down 3%
  • Oats; 1.1 million tonnes, up 1%
  • Sugar cane; 30.3 million tonnes, down 7%

Fruit, nuts and vegetables

The 2019-20 reference period was a mixed season for fruit, nuts and vegetables with poor seasonal conditions impacting many regions combined with increased irrigation water prices.

Fruit and nuts

Key results for 2019-20 included:

Increases in:

  • oranges (383,000 tonnes), up 12% from 2018-19
  • bananas (372,400 tonnes), up 20%
  • almonds produced (110,100 tonnes), up 13%
  • mangoes (62,600 thousand tonnes), up 26%
     

Decreases in:

  • grapes (1.5 million tonnes), down 5%
  • apples (263,000 tonnes), down 1%
  • avocados (77,300 tonnes), down 3%
  • strawberries (59,000), down 14%

Vegetables

Key results for 2019-20 included:

  • 1.1 million tonnes of potatoes produced in 2018-19 (down 12%)
  • 297,500 tonnes of tomatoes (down 10%)
  • 275,000 tonnes of carrots (down 13%)
  • 120,700 tonnes of lettuces (down 10%)
  • 49,000 tonnes of mushrooms (up 1%)

Livestock

Ongoing drought conditions continued to limit the growth of Australian livestock numbers in 2019-20.

Beef cattle

The national beef cattle herd fell 6% to 21 million, the lowest level since 1990. Continued drought in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory has seen further destocking during 2020.

As at 30 June 2020, the herd comprised:

  • 4.6 million calves (down 7% from 2019)
  • 11.1 million cows and heifers (down 5%)
  • 5.4 million other beef cattle (down 6%)
     

Dairy cattle

Improved seasonal conditions in Victoria have resulted in the national dairy herd stabilising at 2.4 million head at 30 June 2020.

The herd comprised:

  • 1.4 million cows in milk and dry (up 1% from 2019)
  • 391,400 dairy calves less than one year (up 2%)
  • 369,900 heifers 1 to 2 years old (steady)
  • 122,400 heifers 2 years and older (up 6%)
     

Sheep and lambs

The national sheep flock continued to decline in 2020, reaching its lowest level since 1904 due to drought induced destocking. Victoria was the only state to record an increased flock size, up 9%, driven by an increase in marked lambs.

There were 64 million sheep and lambs (down 3%) at 30 June 2020, including:

  • 20 million marked lambs less than one year old (up 5% from 2019)
  • 35 million breeding ewes (down 6%)
  • 8 million other sheep (down 9%)
     

Pigs

There were 2 million pigs (down 3% from 2019) nationally, with the herd size impacted by decreasing pig meat prices and rising feed costs.

Of these there were:

  • 246,000 breeding sows (down 9%)
  • 2 million other pigs (down 2%)
     

Chickens

The national poultry flock decreased 10% to 123 million driven by water availability and the continued high cost of feed.

There were:

  • 101 million meat chickens (down 10% from 2019)
  • 16 million layers (down 2%)
  • 3 million other poultry (e.g. geese, turkeys, quail and ducks) (down 23%)

Changes in this and forthcoming issues

Drought, bushfires and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Impacts of drought are evident in agricultural activity estimates for the 2019-20 reference year across a number of the ABS' agricultural collections, including Agricultural Commodities, Australia. Many farming areas across Australia experienced drought throughout the reference period, with New South Wales and Queensland particularly impacted. In addition, the impact on estimates from the bushfire activity in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland in early 2020 and flooding experienced in parts of New South Wales and Queensland are varied, with some respondents reporting impacts on their agricultural activity from these events.

There are minimal impacts in the 2019-20 estimates from the COVID-19 pandemic. Feedback from survey respondents producing horticultural crops indicated a shortage of seasonal workers due to COVID-19 restrictions. The ABS is continuing to monitor potential impacts from natural disasters and COVID-19 across its agricultural collections for the 2019-20 reference year and beyond. For more information on the expected economic impacts of the Bushfire and COVID-19, please see the ABS Chief Economist Series paper Measuring natural disasters in the Australian economy.

Changes to collection outputs

Final estimates from the ABS' annual agricultural survey are available each year in this publication (Agricultural Commodities, Australia) as well as in a number of other ABS publications. Content changes for the Rural Environment and Agricultural Commodities Survey (REACS) are made each year to best reflect the highest priority information needs for Australian agriculture and to improve the ease of reporting for survey respondents.  To assist with comparing commodity and land use estimates estimates published since the 2015-16 reference period a data item listing is available for download from the "Data downloads" section of this publication. To understand how content from the 2019-20 REACS aligns with content for the 2020-21 Agricultural Census, refer to the 2020-21 Agricultural Census Topics and Data Release Plan.

Data downloads

Agricultural commodities, Australia and state/territory and ASGS (Statistical Area 4) regions - 2019-20

Agricultural commodities, Australia and state/territory and NRM regions - 2019-20

Agricultural commodities, Australia and state/territory and ASGS (Statistical Area 4) regions - 2019-20 (.csv file)

Agricultural commodities, Australia and state/territory and NRM regions - 2019-20 (.csv file)

Agricultural Commodities, Australian – Data item list, 2015-16 to 2019-20

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 7121.0.