Latest release

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
2020-21 financial year

Key statistics

  • 387 million hectares of agricultural land, up 3% from 2019-20
  • 87,400 agricultural businesses, unchanged from 2019-20
  • Total crop area up 21% to 29 million hectares
  • 68 million sheep and lambs on farms at 30 June 2021, up 7%
  • 22 million beef cattle at 30 June 2021, up 4%

Australian farms

At 30 June 2021 there were:

  • 387 million hectares of agricultural land, up 3% from 2019-20
  • 87,400 agricultural businesses, virtually unchanged from 2019-20

Land use on Australian farms

Most agricultural land was used for agricultural production:

  • 332 million hectares were used for grazing, up 2% from 2019-20
  • 32 million hectares used for crops, up 2%
  • 17 million hectares was not used for agricultural production, with 49% was set aside for conservation/protection purposes.

Cereal and other broadacre crops

Favourable growing conditions, improved soil moisture levels and better access to water for irrigation resulted in dramatic increases from 2019-20 in the production of a number of cereal and broadacre crops.

In 2020-21, there were:

  • 26 million hectares of cereal and broadacre crops planted (up 25%)
  • 32,200 businesses growing cereal and broadacre crops (up 12%)

The increased availability of water for irrigation was was most evident in Australia’s cotton and rice production, returning to production levels not achieved for several years (up to 566 million kilograms and 423,000 tonnes respectively).

Improved growing conditions saw farmers increase their areas sown to wheat during 2020-21. This was most notable in New South Wales, the country's largest producer, where favourable conditions resulted in a tripling of yields and the state recording a seven-fold increase in production, up from 1.8 million tonnes to 13 million tonnes in 2020-21. Western Australia also experienced better seasonal conditions resulting in the state's wheat production increasing 51% to 8.8 million tonnes.

Other key cereal and broadacre crops:

  • sugar cane; 31.1 million tonnes produced, up 3%
  • barley; 14.6 million tonnes, up 45%
  • canola; 4.8 million tonnes, up 107%
  • oats; 1.9 million tonnes, up 66%

Fruit, nuts and vegetables

Increased rainfall and cooler conditions during 2020-21 also resulted in increased production of many fruit, nuts, and vegetable commodities. Wine and table grapes, oranges and cherries all reported record crops, while mandarins enjoyed their best season in 10 years. Nut crops continued to flourish, with orchard expansions and extensive new plantings in recent years now maturing. As a result, almond and macadamia production were at record highs. The season was mixed for vegetable crops with notable increases in potatoes, sweet corn, broccoli, and capsicums production.

Improvements in the seasonal conditions were offset by tropical cyclone Niran in late February 2021 which impacted horticultural production in Queensland, notably the state's banana crop; flooding on the New South Wales mid north coast and Hunter Valley regions during March 2021; and by a second consecutive failed wet season across the Top End.

Fruit and nuts

Key results for 2020-21 included:

Increases in:

  • grapes (1.9 million tonnes), up 28% from 2019-20
  • oranges (435,400 tonnes), up 14%
  • apples (284,900 tonnes), up 8%
  • mandarins (175,800 tonnes), up 40%

  • almonds (129,000 tonnes), up 17%

Decreases in:

  • bananas (346,000 tonnes), down 7%
  • pineapples (73,900 tonnes), down 4%
  • mangoes (60,700 tonnes), down 3%
  • strawberries (56,800), down 4%

Vegetables

Key results for 2020-21 included:

  • 1.3 million tonnes of potatoes (up 18% from 2019-20)
  • 336,900 tonnes of tomatoes (up 13%)
  • 311,200 tonnes of carrots (up 13%)
  • 114,800 tonnes of sweet corn (up 57%)
  • 42,500 tonnes of mushrooms (down 13%)

Livestock

Improved seasonal conditions during 2020-21 led to increased pasture production, lower grain and hay prices and increased on-farm feed reserves, with many producers rebuilding their cattle herds and sheep flocks, and increases also seen in the national chicken flock and pig herd.

Beef cattle

The break in the drought across many key beef producing regions in Queensland and New South Wales, saw producers take advantage of improved pastures and increased access to stock feed to re-build herds. Nationally, the beef herd increased 4% to 22 million head with Queensland up 2% to 10.6 million head and New South Wales up 15% to 4.1 million head. Improved seasonal conditions in Western Australia and Victoria also resulted in increases to herds, Victoria up 4% to 2.1 million head and Western Australia up 5% to 2 million head.

At 30 June 2021, the national beef herd comprised of:

  • 4.9 million calves (up 5% from 2020)
  • 11.8 million cows and heifers (up 6%)
  • 5.4 million other beef cattle (up 1%)
     

Dairy cattle

Favourable conditions and lower production costs resulted in a small increase of 1% in the national dairy herd at 30 June 2021 to 2.4 million head. Increases in New South Wales and Tasmanian dairy herds (up 11% and 5% respectively) offset a 2% decrease in size of the Victorian herd.

At 30 June 2021, the herd comprised of:

  • 1.4 million cows in milk and dry, unchanged from 2020
  • 423,500 dairy calves less than one year (up 8%)
  • 383,300 heifers 1 to 2 years old (up 4%)
  • 105,000 heifers 2 years and older (down 14%)
     

Sheep and lambs

Following record low flock levels in 2020, improved conditions saw producers in the eastern states rebuild their sheep flocks, with the New South Wales flock increasing 21%. Western Australia’s season was less favourable, which, combined with high interstate transfers of ewes, resulted in a 7% decrease in the state’s sheep flock.

Nationally, there were 68 million sheep and lambs (up 7%) at 30 June 2021, including:

  • 22.6 million marked lambs less than one year old (up 11% from 2020)
  • 37.6 million breeding ewes (up 6%)
  • 7.8 million other sheep (up 1%)
     

Pigs

The national pig herd increased 14% to 2.6 million head following strong pork prices and lower feed costs in 2021.

At 30 June 2021, the herd comprised of:

  • 268,600 breeding sows (up 9%)
  • 2.3 million other pigs (up 15%)
     

Chickens

The national poultry flock increased 10% to 135 million birds following increased consumer demand for chicken meat and eggs and reduced feed costs in 2021.

At June 30, 2021 there were:

  • 111 million meat chickens (up 10% from 2020)
  • 17 million layers (up 5%)
  • 3 million other poultry (e.g. geese, turkeys, quail and ducks) (down 1%)

Thank you to Australia’s agricultural businesses

The ABS thanks all agricultural businesses who completed the Agricultural Census in 2021 either online or using a paper form. Close to 100,000 businesses gave their time to share valuable insights about their farming operations and we have used that information to build a rich picture of the size and value of the agricultural sector in Australia.

Changes in this and forthcoming issues

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The ABS is continuing to monitor potential impacts from natural disasters and COVID-19 across its agricultural collections. While some agricultural businesses noted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the easing of drought conditions, particularly in the eastern states, was associated with improvements in agricultural production in 2020-21 across large numbers of commodities.

For statistics and research products to help understand the impacts of COVID-19 on Australians and the economy see the ABS' Measuring the impacts of COVID-19 page on our website.   

Changes to collection outputs

Final estimates for the financial year from the ABS’ agricultural collections are available each year in this publication (Agricultural Commodities, Australia) as well as in a number of other ABS publications. Changes to the content of the ABS' suite of agricultural surveys are made each year to best reflect the highest priority information needs for Australian agriculture and to improve the ease of reporting for agricultural businesses. To assist with comparing water use estimates published since the 2015-16 reference period, a data item listing is available for download from the "Data downloads" section of this publication.

Future changes to ABS' Agricultural Statistics Program

The ABS’ Agricultural Statistics Program is modernising the way in which it produces official agricultural statistics to allow the ABS to:

  • Produce more timely statistics with greater regional detail to facilitate a holistic view of Australian agriculture
  • Reduce the reporting burden for farmers and agricultural businesses by maximising the use of alternative data sources
  • Publish a consistent set of critical agriculture statistics that form a foundation for understanding Australian agriculture

In this modernised program, a picture of Australian agriculture will be informed by data collected for other purposes (e.g. levies data, earth observations data) and supplemented by data collected from smaller scale surveys.

The ABS has already released a series of experimental outputs using this approach, see the publications Sugarcane, experimental regional estimates using new data sources and methods and Canola, experimental regional estimates using new data sources and methods.

With the increased prevalence of high-quality agricultural data held by government and industry becoming available for broader use, it is time to close the chapter on large scale surveys of Australian farmers and the Agricultural Census will be discontinued.

The 2020-21 Agricultural Census was the last Agricultural Census to be conducted by the ABS. While the ABS will continue to produce official agricultural statistics, the way in which it does so is changing. Further information on how the ABS’ Agricultural Statistics Program is evolving and how data users can be a part of shaping the future program, will be released on the ABS website over the coming weeks.

Data downloads

Agricultural commodities, Australia and state/territory and ASGS regions - 2020-21

Agricultural commodity estimates by Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) Edition 3 regions

Agricultural commodities by Natural Resource Management regions - 2020-21

Agricultural commodity estimates by Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions (2016 edition)

Agricultural commodities by Local Government Areas - 2020-21

Agricultural commodity estimates by Local Government Areas (2021 edition)

Agricultural commodities by Murray Darling Basin region - 2020-21

Agricultural commodity estimates by Murray Darling Basin region

Agricultural Commodities, Australia – Data item list, 2015-16 to 2020-21

Agricultural commodity data items collected and published since the 2015-16 reference period.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 7121.0.