About my region – Northern Territory

About my region is a series of individual profiles of the agricultural, forestry and fisheries industries in your region. This regional profile presents an overview of the agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors in the Northern Territory and the recent financial performance of the Northern Territory beef industry.​​

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​​​​​​​​Regional overview

The Northern Territory covers a total area of around 1,349,129 square kilometres and is home to approximately 211,940 people [1]. Agricultural land in the Northern Territory occupies 615,028 square kilometres, or around 46 per cent of the state. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 716,626 square kilometres, or 53 per cent of the state. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 611,600 square kilometres or 45 per cent of the state.

Broad land use in the Northern Territory
Shows a map of broad land use in the Northern Territory. It includes a legend which shows the broad land use categories— nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use; grazing native vegetation; production forestry; grazing modified pastures; plantation forestry; cropping; horticulture; intensive uses and water. This map is discussed in the above paragraph.
Source: Land use of Australia 2010–2011 ABARES 2016


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the November 2016 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 133,300 people were employed in the Northern Territory.

Public administration and safety was the largest employment sector with 23,200 people, followed by health care and social assistance with 15,700 people, and construction with 14,200 people. Other important employment sectors in the territory were education and training and retail trade. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 1,700 people, representing around 1 per cent of the state's workforce.

Employment profile, Northern Territory, November 2016
Shows the number of people employed in the Northern Territory by industry in thousands. The figure is discussed in the previous two paragraphs.
Note: Annual average of the preceding 4 quarters
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, cat. no. 6291.0, Labour Force, Australia 2016

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2014–15, the gross value of agricultural production in Northern Territory was $835 million, which was 1.6 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia ($53.6 billion).

The most important commodities in Northern Territory based on the gross value of agricultural production were cattle and calves ($722 million), followed by melons ($42 million) and other livestock for meat ($25 million). These commodities together contributed 95 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the jurisdiction.

Value of agricultural production, Northern Territory, 2014–15
Shows the gross value of agricultural production in the region in millions of dollars. The figure is discussed in the previous two paragraphs.
Note: The graph shows only data published by the ABS. Some values were not published by the ABS to ensure confidentiality.
The "Other commodities" category includes the total value of commodities not published as well as those with small values.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, cat. no. 7503.0, Value of agricultural commodities produced, Australia 2016

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2014–15 there were 375 farms in Northern Territory with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more. The territory contains less than 1 per cent of all farm businesses in Australia.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Northern Territory region, 2014–15
Industry classificationNorthern TerritoryAustralia
Number of farms% of RegionNumber of farmsContribution of region to state total %
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised) 176 46.9 38,043 0.5
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing 107 28.5 14,907 0.7
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors) 49 13.1 9,575 0.5
Grape Growing 7 2.0 8,374 0.1
Other Crop Growing nec 7 1.9 7,330 0.1
Floriculture Production (Outdoors) 6 1.5 5,820 0.1
Other Livestock Farming nec 5 1.4 4,294 0.1
Other 18 4.7 21,723 0.1
Total agriculture 375 100 110,068 0.3

Note: Estimated value of agricultural operations $5,000 or more. Industries that constitute less than 1 per cent of the region's industry are not shown
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (176) were the most common, accounting for 47 per cent of all farms in the Northern Territory.

Estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) is a measure of the value of production from farms and a measure of their business size. Around 24 per cent of farms in the Northern Territory had an EVAO of less than $50,000. These farms accounted for only 1 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 22 per cent of farms in the territory had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 75 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Northern Territory in 2014–15.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Northern Territory, 2014–15
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Northern Territory. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Farm financial performance

Estimates of financial performance are available for beef farms in the Northern Territory.

Fisheries sector

In 2013–14 the gross value of Northern Territory managed fisheries production (both aquaculture and wild-catch) was $45.9 million, a decrease of 21 per cent ($12 million) from 2012–13. The Northern Territory contributed 2 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2013–14. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 67 per cent ($31 million) of the territory's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 33 per cent ($15 million).

The Northern Territory's wild-catch fisheries sector provides a range of fisheries products. The highest contribution is from crabs (primarily mud crabs), which account for 15 per cent of the total value of wild-catch fisheries with a value of $4.6 million. Other important wild-catch fisheries products are gold band snapper (14 per cent; $4.3 million), mackerel (13 per cent; $4.1 million) and barramundi (8 per cent; $2.6 million). Over the past decade the value of the Northern Territory's wild-catch fisheries products has decreased by 26 per cent to $31 million in 2013–14. The products for which the real value of production declined most over the past decade are shark and sea perch, falling by $9 million and $5 million respectively between 2003–04 and 2013–14. In 2013–14 the value of the Northern Territory's aquaculture production is estimated to have decreased by 38 per cent from $24 million in 2012–13 to $15 million in 2013–14.

The Commonwealth managed Northern Prawn Fishery was the most valuable fishery in the Northern Territory, with a gross value of production in 2013–14 of $115 million, across the entire fishery (some of which is landed in Queensland). In 2013–14, the gross value of production for the Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery increased by 62 per cent because of a 69 per cent increase in volume. Darwin is a major landing site for this fishery.

In 2013–14, the Northern Territory's seafood product exports were valued at around $0.05 million by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This amount will not include Northern Territory production that is exported from ports elsewhere in Australia. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen fish, and crabs, with Japan and Hong Kong being the main export markets. The main non-edible fisheries product produced for the export market in the Northern Territory was pearls.

It is estimated that Northern Territory residents and visitors spend nearly $51 million annually on recreational fishing, with the purchase of vessels and vehicles and their associated running costs making up the bulk of the expenditure [2]. According to the most recent survey of recreational fishing activity in the Northern Territory [2], the main target fish species are barramundi, followed by golden snapper, small bait fish, catfish, saddletail and crimson snapper, and mullet. Mud crabs dominate the crustacean catch, followed by cherabin, the giant freshwater prawn.

The Northern Territory also has a significant indigenous customary fish sector. The 2000–01 National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey (NRIFS) aimed to better understand the level of fishing undertaken by the Indigenous fishing sector [3]. The survey collected fisheries catch statistics from Indigenous people aged five years and older, living in coastal communities across the north of Australia, from Broome in Western Australia to Cairns in Queensland (excluding those living in the Torres Strait). The survey showed that an estimated 37,000 Indigenous people living in the north of Australia fished at least once during the survey year. This was equivalent to 92 per cent of the Indigenous population in the region.

The survey indicated that Indigenous fishers in northern Australia harvested approximately 900,000 finfish, 1 million molluscs, 660,000 prawns and yabbies, 180,000 crabs and rock lobsters and smaller numbers of other species during 2000–01. The most prominent finfish species groups were mullet, catfish, tropical snapper, bream and barramundi. The most prominent non–finfish species groups were mussels, freshwater prawn, mud crabs, prawns and oysters.

Forestry sector

In 2013–14, the total plantation area in the Northern Territory was approximately 44,700 hectares, comprised of approximately 42,300 hectares of hardwood plantations and 2,400 hectares of softwood plantations. In 2014–15 there was a small volume of plantation forests harvested.

The main hardwood species planted are mangium (Acacia mangium) and African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis). Plantations in the Northern Territory are predominantly located on Melville and Tiwi Islands and some northern parts of the mainland.

In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, there were approximately 15.2 million hectares of native forests in the Northern Territory, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland (5.8 million hectares), Eucalypt medium open (5.0 million hectares), Acacia (957,600 hectares), Melaleuca (896,000 hectares), Eucalypt low woodland (855,400 hectares), Eucalypt low open (472,800 hectares), Mangrove (333,800 hectares) and Rainforest (259,700 hectares) forest types. Approximately 9.6 million hectares of the native forests are privately owned and 5.2 million hectares are leased forests. There are no major timber processing industries in the Northern Territory.

Sales and service income in the Northern Territory wood product industry was estimated at approximately $23 million in 2013–14.

In 2011, the Northern Territory forestry sector employed 244 people (0.3 per cent of the total employed workforce in the Northern Territory) compared with 197 (0.3 per cent) in 2006. The number of people employed includes forestry support services and timber wholesaling.

Area of native forest, by tenure, Northern Territory
Shows the area of native forest, by tenure in the region in thousand hectares. This figure is discussed in the above paragraph.
Source: ABARES Australia's State of the Forests Report 2013


  1. ABS 2011, Census of Population and Housing, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.
  2. West, L. D., Lyle, J. M., Matthews, S. R., Stark, K. E. and Steffe, A. S. 2012, Survey of Recreational Fishing in the Northern Territory, 2009–10. Northern Territory Government, Australia. Fishery Report No. 109, available at http://www.nt.gov.au/d/Content/File/p/Fish_Rep/FR109.pdf
  3. Henry, G.W. and Lyle, J.M. 2003, The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey, FRDC Project No. 99/158.
Last reviewed:
23 Mar 2017