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About my region – South Australia

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 South Australia and the recent financial performance of the South Australian broadacre, dairy, and vegetable industries.

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Regional overview

South Australia covers a total area of around 983,300 square kilometres and is home to approximately 1.7 million people (ABS 2018). Agricultural land in South Australia occupies 522,300 square kilometres, or about 53 per cent of the state. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 417,600 square kilometres, or 42 per cent of the state. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 410,100 square kilometres or 42 per cent of the state (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in South Australia
Shows a map of broad land use in South Australia. 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 843,600 people were employed in South Australia.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 125,400 people, followed by retail trade with 88,500 people, and manufacturing with 71,400 people. Other important employment sectors in the state were construction; education and training; and accommodation and food services. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 37,900 people, representing around 4 per cent of the state's workforce.

Employment profile, South Australia, February 2019
Shows the number of people employed in South Australia 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 South Australia was $6.6 billion, which was 11 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia ($59 billion).

The most important commodities in South Australia based on the gross value of agricultural production were wheat ($959 million), followed by sheep and lambs ($575 million) and wool ($569 million). These commodities together contributed 32 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the state.

Value of agricultural production, South Australia, 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 9,597 farms in South Australia with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The state contains 11 per cent of all farm businesses in Australia.

Number of farms, by industry classification, South Australia, 2015–16
Industry classificationSouth Australia regionAustralia
Number of farms% of RegionNumber of farmsContribution of SA to Australian total %
Other Grain Growing2,42025.211,77120.6
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming1,62316.99,87116.4
Grape Growing1,39314.53,12844.5
Sheep Farming (Specialised)1,27813.38,38715.2
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)8218.624,2103.4
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming5575.84,97011.2
Dairy Cattle Farming2382.56,2483.8
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)2072.22,6797.7
Citrus Fruit Growing1391.578617.7
Pig Farming1211.347225.6
Vegetable Growing (Under Cover)1151.230937.1
Total agriculture 9,597 100 87,493 11

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. Other grain growing farms (2,420) were the most common, accounting for about 25 per cent of all farms in South Australia.

Estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) is a measure of the value of production from farms and a measure of their business size. Around 25 per cent of farms in South Australia had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 3 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2016–17. In comparison, 22 per cent of farms in the state had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 65 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in South Australia in 2016–17.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, South Australia, 2016–17
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the South Australia 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 South Australia.

Fisheries sector

In 2015–16 the gross value of South Australia's fisheries production was around $517 million, an increase of 10 per cent ($48 million) from 2014–15. South Australia contributed 17 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2015–16. In value terms, the wild–catch sector accounted for 51 per cent ($265 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 49 per cent ($252 million).

South Australia's wild–catch fisheries sector is dominated by four main products — Southern rock lobster, prawns, Australian sardines and abalone — which account for 52 per cent, 17 per cent, 10 per cent and 8 per cent respectively of the total value of wild-caught production in 2014–15. Over the last decade the real value of South Australia's wild-caught fisheries products has increased by 7 per cent to $265 million (2015–16). The product for which the real value of production increased most over the past decade are wild-caught rock lobster, increasing by $34 million. A large proportion of abalone is exported, mostly to Hong Kong, China and Japan. Exchange rate movements have a significant effect on the value of abalone exports and, in turn, production. Prawns are mostly sold in the domestic market, where competition from imports has placed significant downward pressure on prices in recent years.

Most Australian sardine production is used as a high quality feed in tuna ranching operations located off Port Lincoln in South Australia. A small portion also goes toward human consumption, the recreational fishing bait market and premium brands of pet food.

In 2015–16 the value of South Australia's aquaculture production is estimated to have increased by 11 per cent from $227 million in 2014–15 to $252 million in 2015–16. Southern bluefin tuna is the single most valuable species in the region and South Australia's aquaculture industry, and is ranched by the Commonwealth Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery for fattening in sea cages at Port Lincoln. Southern bluefin tuna accounted for 50 per cent (127 million) of the value of South Australian aquaculture production, followed by oysters (12 per cent; $31 million) and abalone (6 per cent; $15 million).

Commonwealth fisheries active in waters off South Australia include the Commonwealth Trawl Sector (main source of domestic fresh fish for Sydney and Melbourne markets) the Shark Gillnet and Shark Hook Sectors (supplies gummy shark or flake to Melbourne) of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery and the Great Australian Bight sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery harvesting mainly redfish and flathead. The Small Pelagic Fishery (mostly fishmeal for aquaculture and agriculture) also operates in the waters off South Australia.

In 2014–15, South Australia's fisheries product exports were valued at $250 million. The main export products include tuna, Southern rock lobster and abalone. Japan and Vietnam are the major destinations for South Australian fisheries exports, accounting for 49 per cent and 23per cent of the total value of exports in 2015–16, respectively. Other major export destinations include Hong Kong (13 per cent), China (3 per cent) and Singapore (2 per cent).

Recreational fishing is popular in South Australia with an estimated 277,027 South Australians (5 years and over) participating in the activity in the 12 months prior to November 2013. In its survey of recreational fishers in South Australia found that most fishing effort is directed to Spencer Gulf (37 per cent), the Gulf St. Vincent and Kangaroo Island waters (28 per cent), followed by West Coast (16 per cent) and the South East waters (6 per cent). Most (87 per cent) fishing effort occurred in marine waters, including estuaries, and inshore and offshore waters. The remaining 13 per cent of effort was in freshwater activity, with the majority of this effort occurring in the River Murray. The key species caught by recreational fishers include Australian salmon, blue swimmer crab, King George whiting, mulloway, snapper, southern calamari, southern garfish, southern rock lobster and pipi.

Forestry sector

In 2015–16, the total plantation area in South Australia was 178,800 hectares, comprised of 51,400 hectares of hardwood plantations, 127,200 hectares of softwood plantations and 200 hectares of other plantations. The main hardwood species planted is blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and the main softwood species planted is radiata pine (Pinus radiata).

In 2016, there were 4.8 million hectares of native forests in South Australia, comprised mainly of Eucalypt mallee woodland forest (3.7 million hectares), Casuarina forest (252,400 hectares), Eucalypt mallee open forest (208,100 hectares) and Eucalypt medium woodland forest (194,900 hectares). The majority of native forests were in nature conservation reserves (1.7 million hectares), while 1.6 million hectares were privately owned and 1.4 million hectares were leasehold forests.

In 2015–16, the volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested in South Australia was 1.2 million cubic metres valued at $94 million. The volume of softwood harvested was 3 million cubic metres valued at $227 million. No native hardwood forestry harvesting is undertaken in South Australia.

Total sales and service income in the South Australian forest and wood product industry was estimated at $2 billion in 2015–16. The income generated from the sale of wood products was 978 million and the income generated from the sale of paper and paper products was $978 million.

In 2016, South Australia's forestry sector employed 5,518 workers (0.7 per cent of the total employed workforce in South Australia) compared with 6,499 (0.9 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, South Australia
Shows the areas of native forest, by tenure in the South Australia region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Source: Australia's State of the Forest Report 2018, ABARES


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, 2018, 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.

Montreal Process Implementation Group for Australia and National Forest Inventory Steering Committee, 2018, Australia’s State of the Forests Report 2018, ABARES, Canberra, December. CC BY 4.0.

Last reviewed:
03 Jun 2019