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About my region – Townsville Queensland

​​​​​​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 Townsville region and the recent Queensland financial performance of the broadacre, dairy and vegetable industries.

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Regional overview

The Townsville region of Queensland is located in the north east of the state. The region comprises the four local government areas of Burdekin, Charters Towers, Hinchinbrook, and Townsville, and the major regional centres of Charters Towers, Townsville, Ayr and Ingham. The region covers a total area of around 79,900 square kilometres, or 5 per cent of Queensland's total area, and is home to approximately 235,700 people (ABS 2018).

Agricultural land in the Townsville region occupies 68,200 square kilometres, or 85 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 10,400 square kilometres, or 13 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 61,700 square kilometres or 77 per cent of the Townsville region (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in the Townsville region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Townsville 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: Catchment scale land use of Australia - Update December 2018


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the February 2019 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 106,900 people were employed in the Townsville region. The region accounts for 4 per cent of total employment in Queensland and 5 per cent of all people employed in the Queensland agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 21,300 people, followed by education and training with 13,400 people, and retail trade with 9,800 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were public administration and safety; manufacturing; and transport, postal and warehousing. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 3,400 people, representing 3 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Townsville region, February 2019
Shows the number of people employed in the Townsville 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 2019

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2017–18, the gross value of agricultural production in the Townsville region was $930 million, which was 7 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Queensland ($13 billion).

The most important commodities in the Townsville region based on the gross value of agricultural production were sugarcane ($438 million), followed by cattle and calves ($337 million) and melons ($26 million). These commodities together contributed 86 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region. The Townsville region accounted for 85 per cent ($2 million) of the total value of Queensland's rice production in 2017–18.

Value of agricultural production, Townsville region, 2017–18
Shows the gross value of agricultural production in the region in millions of dollars. The figure is discussed in the previous three 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 2019

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2016–17 there were 1,332 farms in the Townsville region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The region contains 7 per cent of all farm businesses in Queensland.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Townsville region, 2016–17
Industry classificationTownsville regionQueensland
Number of farms% of RegionNumber of farmsContribution of region to state total %
Sugar Cane Growing89267.03,11528.6
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)29622.28,5283.5
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)544.06718.0
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing392.97625.1
Nursery Production (Outdoors)171.313812.2
Total agriculture 1,332 100 18,401 7.2

Note: Estimated value of agricultural operations $40,000 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. Sugar cane farms (892 farms) were the most common, accounting for 67 per cent of all farms in the Townsville region, and 29 per cent of all sugar cane farms in Queensland.

Estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) is a measure of the value of production from farms and a measure of their business size. Around 13 per cent of farms in the Townsville region had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for about 2 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2016–17. In comparison, 38 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $500,000 and accounted for an estimated 77 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Townsville region in 2016–17.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Townsville region, 2016–17
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Townsville region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Note: Only farms with an EVAO of $50,000 or more in 2016–17 are included in these data. The scope of ABS Rural Environment and Agricultural Collections changed in 2015–16 to include only agricultural businesses with an EVAO of $40,000 or greater.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Farm financial performance

Estimates of financial performance are available for all broadacre, dairy and vegetable farms in Queensland.

Fisheries sector

Townsville is one of the main commercial fishing ports in Queensland. The East Coast Trawl Fishery is the largest of Queensland's commercial fisheries operating in the region targeting mostly prawns (tiger, red–spot king, endeavour and banana), and also harvesting bugs and squid. Other key commercial species for Queensland fisheries in the region include mackerel, barramundi, threadfin and mud crabs.

The Townsville area produced 1,826 tonnes of aquaculture production in 2016–17 utilising 144.6 hectares of ponds. The aquaculture industry in the area employed approximately 83.8 persons in 2016–17 (Lobegeiger 2018). Aquaculture species produced in the Townsville area include barramundi, red claw crayfish, and prawns.

The proportion of residents in the Townsville region that fish at least once each year is 20 per cent, higher than the Queensland average of 17 per cent (Taylor et. al. 2012). Residents of the region mainly fish in coastal waters and adjacent reefs within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park near Townsville and Cairns, and the estuaries and freshwater reaches of the central coast catchment. In terms of numbers, the most common species caught in this region is the mud crab. Finfish such as bream, mangrove jack and barramundi are caught in the rivers and coral trout, trevally and tropical snapper are targeted by inshore boat fishers. This region is a popular destination for fishers travelling from other regions of Queensland and other states.

In 2015–16 the total gross value of Queensland's fisheries production was $291.1 million, a decrease of 1 per cent ($2.1 million) from 2014–15. Queensland contributed 10 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2015–16. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 60 per cent ($175.9 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 40 per cent ($118.3 million).

Queensland's wild-catch fisheries sector provides a range of fisheries products. The highest contribution being from prawns, which account for 36 per cent of the total value of wild-catch fisheries production with a value of $62.7 million, followed by coral trout (15 per cent; $26.8 million) and crabs (14 per cent; $24.2 million). Over the last decade the real value of Queensland's wild-caught fisheries products has reduced by 37 per cent. Prawns, snapper and shark, showed the largest decline in the value of production over the past decade, reducing by 35 per cent, 77 per cent and 66 per cent respectively. Competition from imported prawns in the domestic market has also placed significant downward pressure on prices in recent years.

The value of Queensland's aquaculture production has increased by 4 per cent in 2015–16 to $118.3 million. Prawn and barramundi farming account for the largest share of production by value, with prawns accounting for 68 per cent, and $80.5 million of production, followed by barramundi (25 per cent; $29.3 million).

Commonwealth fisheries active in the waters off the east coast of Queensland include the Commonwealth Eastern Tuna and Billfish fishery (mainly supplying export markets with tuna) and the Coral Sea Fishery.

In 2015–16, Queensland's fisheries product exports were valued at $199.6 million. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen fish, prawns and rock lobster. Hong Kong, Japan and the United States are the major destinations for Queensland fisheries exports, accounting for 42 per cent, 17 per cent and 14 per cent of the total value of exports in 2015–16, respectively. Other major export destinations include China (7 per cent) and Vietnam (4 per cent).

Recreational fishing is popular in Queensland. The results of the 2013–14 state wide and regional recreational fishing survey report that recreational fishing continues to be a popular activity; however the participation rate has dropped from 17 per cent in 2010 to 15 per cent in 2013. In the 12 months prior to November 2013 approximately 700,000 Queenslanders went recreational fishing (QDAF 2015). Total expenditure in the sector is estimated to be between $350 million and $420 million in 2008–09 (DEEDI 2009). The tropical waters of Queensland are also a key area for tourism, attracting anglers from around the world and Australia. Popular target species include crabs, prawns and a range of finfish species including cods and groupers, coral trout, redthroat emperor, rosy snapper, and mackerel. For freshwater activity some key species caught include barramundi, eels, silver perch, and yabby and blueclaw crayfish.

Forestry sector

In 2014–15, the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the Townsville region was 5,000 hectares, comprised almost completely of softwood plantations. The main softwood species planted is Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea).

In 2011, there were 4.3 million hectares of native forests in the Townsville region, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland (3.0 million hectares), Acacia (342,500 hectares), Eucalypt low woodland (233,700 hectares), Eucalypt medium open (217,100 hectares) and Rainforest (184,200 hectares) forest types. There were 3.4 million hectares of native forests were leasehold forests, 452,100 hectares were privately owned, 289,900 hectares were in nature conservation reserves and 32,500 hectares are multiple-use public forest available for timber production. Major timber processing industries are located in Townsville and Ayr.

In 2015–16, the total plantation area in Queensland was 230,400 hectares, comprised of 34,800 hectares of hardwood plantations, 195,500 hectares of softwood plantations and 100 hectares of other plantations.

In 2015–16, the volume of native hardwood logs harvested in Queensland was 285,000 cubic metres valued at $43 million. The volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 14,000 cubic metres valued at $1 million. The volume of softwood harvested, including native cypress pines, was 2.6 million cubic metres valued at $205 million.

The sales and service income generated from the sale of wood products in Queensland was estimated at $2.6 billion in 2015–16. Sales and service income for paper and paper products is not available for 2015−16.

In 2016, Queensland's forestry sector employed 9,518 workers (0.4 per cent of the total employed workforce) compared with 12,840 (0.6 per cent) in 2011. The number of people employed includes the following categories: forestry, logging, support services, timber wholesaling; and wood, pulp, paper and converted paper product manufacturing.

Areas of native forest, by tenure, Townsville region
Shows the areas of native forest, by tenure in the Townsville region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Source: ABARES Australia's State of the Forests Report 2013


ABARES 2016, Land Use of Australia 2010–11, ABARES, Canberra, May.

ABARES 2018, Catchment scale land use of Australia – December 2018, Canberra, December.

ABS 2018, Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2017, cat. no. 3235.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 10 January 2019.

ABS 2019a Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Feb 2019, cat. no. 6291.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 03 April 2019.

ABS 2019b Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia, 2017-18, cat. no. 7503.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 15 May 2019.

DEEDI 2009, Prospects for Queensland's primary industries 2009–10, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Brisbane, Queensland.

Lobegeiger, R, 2018, Aquaculture production summary for Queensland 2016–17, Queensland Government.

QDAF 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Surveys, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Taylor, S, Webley, J & McInnes, K 2012, 2010 Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Brisbane, Queensland.

Last reviewed:
03 Jun 2019