NEW data on Australian agricultural performance has been released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing a $3.1 billion increase in the industry’s gross value for 2015-16 to $56b - despite a range of declines in the volume of production, for major commodities like wheat.
The five-yearly agricultural census is separate to the recently released population census and provides key statistics on the farm industry that also enhance forecasting by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.
ABS Director of Environment and Agriculture Statistics Lauren Binns thanked farmers for their time and effort in contributing to the latest data collection exercise.
Ms Binns said this year’s agricultural census was different do previous ones because the minimum size for a farming business to be included in the data gathering was increased from those with an average annual turnover of $5000 or more, to ones at $40,000 or more.
She said the average age of farmers who conducted the survey was 56 years old with 78 per cent being male and 22pc female, while 35 years was the average time they’d been involved in farming.
The census showed that all states except the NT had experienced an increase in their total gross value of farm production for 2015-016 with Queensland being the highest with a 12pc increase, driven by livestock disposals (up 14pc) and crops (up 11pc).
Nationally, the gross value of livestock slaughterings and other disposals increased by $1.9b to $20.6bn in 2015-16.
The gross value of crop production also increased 5pc - from $26b in 2014-15 to $27.3b in 2015-16.
But increases were offset by a 3pc decrease to $15.4b for total broadacre crops, reflecting poor cropping conditions prevailing during 2015-16, especially in southern Australia.
Data was collected from around 104,000 businesses ranging from beef cattle production to broadacre farming and vineyards in the ABS farm census.
Ms Binns said while winter and spring rain in parts of NSW and Queensland had produced bumper crops in commodities like barley, a warm dry spring in southern Australia saw a decrease in other crops.
She said barley production increased by 6pc in 2015-16, driven by NSW farmers increasing their planting area with excellent yields.
But Australian wheat production fell by 5pc as a result of hot conditions in late spring in SA and Victoria, she said.
“Similarly, production of canola fell by 21pc with reductions in the area planted in WA, and poor conditions in SA and Victoria,” she said.
The Agricultural census showed the valued of Australian wheat production in 2015-16 was $6.17b – a 12.1pc decrease on 2014-15, while the production value of barley dropped 3.8pc in the same period to $2.276b.
Oats experienced a near on 40pc increase in value to nearly $400m but rice fell by about 56pc to about $115m, sorghum dipped by 23.4pc to $491m and canola’s value plunged by 16.7pc to $1.475b.
Cotton’s production value was up by a whopping 41.7pc to $1.34b and sugar cane for crushing experienced a 0.5pc increase to $1.283b, while fruit and nuts climbed 25.3pc to $4.2b.,
The $20.6b gross value of livestock slaughterings and other disposals in 2015-16 comprised; a 13.5pc increase for cattle and calves to $13b; a 17.8pc lift for pigs to $1.35b; a rise of 5.3pc to $2.75b for poultry; but a 1.7pc drop to $3.24b for sheep and lambs.
For others; wool, the value of production lifted by 10.8pc to almost $3b; eggs increased 7.9pc to $782m; and milk fell by 9.3pc to $4.3b.
Ms Binns said the new data showed that the national meat cattle herd fell by 1pc to 22.3m with small falls across most states offset by increases in the NT.
She said dairy herds fell by 2pc to approximately 2.7m, while the sheep flock fell by1 per cent to around 67.5m.
The ABS changed the scope of its survey from farm businesses with an annual turnover of $5000 or more to those with a turnover of $40,000 or more to bring the Agricultural census more in line with other statistical collections and to significantly reduce the survey burden on small farming operations.
At 30 June 2016 there were 371m hectares of agricultural land in Australia - a 1pc increase compared with the previous year. Coinciding with this increase, there were 952 more agricultural businesses, representing a 1pc increase since 2014-15.
The average number of years respondents were involved in farming was 35. NSW, Queensland and Victoria had the highest average at 36 years and the NT the lowest at 24 years.
The majority of business income for agricultural producers in 2015-16 was from agricultural production (84pc), up from 83pc in 2014-15.
Nationally, wheat production fell by 5pc to 22mt in 2015-16. Warm, dry conditions in Southern Australia, particularly in South Australia (down 18pc), Victoria (down 29pc) and areas of WA (down 3pc), saw large decreases in production. The area planted to wheat nationally decreased by 8pc, down to 11m/ha.
Production of barley increased by 6pc to 9m/t. Timely rainfall and good conditions along with greater area planted (up 3pc) produced good yields and increased production in NSW (up by 39pc). Victoria experienced the lowest yield nationally, at 1.3t per hectare, predominantly driven by dry conditions.
The national total stock of dairy cattle decreased by 2pc to 2.7m head with the change driven by a 6pc decline in Victorian stocks which has about two thirds of the country's dairy cattle.
Total meat cattle in Australia decreased by 302,000 head (1pc) with WA the main contributor with 12pc fewer head.
Mandarin production grew nationally by 24,100t (24pc) in 2014-15 driven by increases in production in all states., while avocado production reached record numbers - up 39pc to 67,600t due to increased production levels in all states, particularly WA and Queensland.
Apple production increased nationally by 5pc to 308,300 tonnes with increased production in all states, except NSW and Victoria.
Farming in the ACT
Approximately 11pc of the ACT’s area (25,448ha) is managed by just 40 agricultural businesses operating in the region.
In 2015-16 the ACT accounted for .01pc of Australia’s agricultural production by value in 2015-16, at $8.3m.