About my region – Outback 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 Outback Northern Territory region and the recent financial performance of the Northern Territory beef industry.

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Regional overview

The Northern Territory – Outback region covers the whole of the Northern Territory excluding the greater Darwin region. It includes the towns of Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek. The region comprises the twelve local government areas of Alice Springs, Barkly, Belyuen, Central Desert, Coomalie, East Arnhem, Katherine, MacDonnell, Roper Gulf, Tiwi Islands, Victoria—Daly and West Arnhem. The region covers a total area of around 1,345,035 square kilometres or 99.7 per cent of the Northern Territory's total area and is home to approximately 89,400 people [1].

Agricultural land in the Northern Territory – Outback region occupies 614,500 square kilometres, or 46 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 714,500 square kilometres, or 53 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 611,200 square kilometres or 45 per cent of the Northern Territory – Outback region.

Broad land use in the Northern Territory – Outback region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Northern Territory - Outback region. 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

Employment

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the November 2016 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 51,400 people were employed in the Northern Territory – Outback region. The Northern Territory – Outback region accounts for 39 per cent of total employment in Northern Territory and 29 per cent of all people employed in the Northern Territory agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Public Administration and Safety was the largest employment sector with 11,200 people, followed by health care and social Assistance with 7,500 people and education and training with 4,800 people. Other important employment sectors in the state were construction and accommodation and food services. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 500 people, representing less than 1 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Northern Territory – Outback region, November 2016
Shows the number of people employed in the Northern Territory - Outback region 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 2015

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2014–15, the gross value of agricultural production in the Northern Territory – Outback region was $780 million, which was 93 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Northern Territory ($835 million).

The most important commodity in the region based on the gross value of agricultural production was cattle and calves ($719 million) accounting for 86 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region. Melons ($32 million) and cut hay ($11 million) were the next most important commodities. These commodities together contributed 98 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region.

Value of agricultural production, Northern Territory – Outback region, 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 244 farms in the Northern Territory – Outback region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more. The region contains 65 per cent of all farm businesses in Northern Territory.

Number of farms, by industry classification,Northern Territory – Outback region, 2014–15
Industry classificationNorthern Territory – Outback regionNorthern Territory
Number of farms% of RegionNumber of farmsContribution of region to state total %
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised) 168 69.1 176 95.7
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing 29 11.7 107 26.7
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors) 23 9.5 49 47.0
Grape Growing 7 3.0 7 100.0
Other Crop Growing nec 6 2.5 7 85.9
Other 10 4.2 29 35.8
Total agriculture 244 100 375 65.0

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 (168) were the most common, accounting for 69 per cent of all farms in the Northern Territory – Outback region, and 96 per cent of all beef cattle 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 19 per cent of farms in the Northern Territory – Outback region had an EVAO of less than $50,000. These farms accounted for less than 1 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 31 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 80 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Northern Territory – Outback region in 2014–15.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Northern Territory – Outback region, 2014–15
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Northern Territory - Outback region. 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 $30 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 2010–11, the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the Outback region of the Northern Territory was approximately 15,900 hectares of hardwood plantations. The main hardwood species planted are mangium (Acacia mangium) and African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis).

In 2011, there were approximately 15.0 million hectares of native forests in the Outback region of the Northern Territory, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland (5.8 million hectares), Eucalypt medium open (5.0 million hectares), Acacia (975,500 hectares), Melaleuca (891,500 hectares), Eucalypt low woodland (855,300 hectares), Eucalypt low open (472,700 hectares), Mangrove (305,600 hectares) and Rainforest (251,000 hectares) forest types. Approximately 9.6 million hectares of the native forests are privately owned and 5.2 million hectares are leased forests (refer to figure below). There are no major timber processing industries in the Outback region of the Northern Territory.

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 – Outback region
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

References

  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