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About my region – Western 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 the Western Australia and the recent Western Australia financial performance of the broadacre, dairy and vegetable industries.

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Regional overview

Western Australia covers a total area of around 2,524,200 square kilometres and is home to approximately 2,575,500 people (ABS 2018).

Agricultural land in Western Australia occupies 1,064,700 square kilometres, or around 42 per cent of the state. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 1,395,200 square kilometres, or 55 per cent of the state. The most common land use by area is minimal use, which occupies 926,000 square kilometres or 37 per cent of the state, followed by grazing of native vegetation, occupying 896,500 square kilometres or 36 per cent of the state (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in Western Australia
Shows a map of broad land use in Western 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

Employment

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the February 2019 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 1.3 million people were employed in the state of Western Australia.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 169,600 people, followed by retail trade with 123,800 people, and construction with 122,000 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were mining; education and training; and professional, scientific and technical services. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 40,100 people, representing 3 per cent of the state's workforce.

Employment profile, Western Australia, February 2019
Shows the number of people employed in the Wheat Belt 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 Western Australia was $8.6 billion, which was 15 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia ($59 billion).

The most important commodities in Western Australia based on the gross value of agricultural production were wheat ($2.1 billion), followed by wool ($995 million) and canola ($989 million). These commodities together contributed 48 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the state.

Value of agricultural production, Western Australia, 2017–18
Shows the gross value of agricultural production in Western Australia 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 8,781 farms in the Western Australia with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The state contains 10 per cent of all farm businesses in Australia.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Western Australia, 2016–17
Industry classificationWestern AustraliaAustralia
Number of farms% of StateNumber of farmsContribution of WA
to Australian total
%
Other Grain Growing        2,638 30.0        11,771 22.4
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming        1,692 19.3          9,871 17.1
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)        1,356 15.4        24,210 5.6
Sheep Farming (Specialised)           989 11.3          8,387 11.8
Grape Growing           360 4.1          3,128 11.5
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)           296 3.4          2,679 11.0
Dairy Cattle Farming           232 2.6          6,248 3.7
Horse Farming           202 2.3          2,172 9.3
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming           174 2.0          4,970 3.5
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing           111 1.3          1,762 6.3
Other           731 8.3        12,295 5.9
Total agriculture        8,781 100        87,493 10.0

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 (2,638 farms) were the most common, accounting for 30 per cent of all farms in Western 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 22 per cent of farms in Western Australia had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 2 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2016–17. In comparison, 34 per cent of farms in the state had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 79 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in Western Australia in 2016–17.

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

Fisheries sector

In 2015–16, the gross value of Western Australian fisheries production (both aquaculture and wild–catch) was $593.3 million, an increase of 4 per cent ($23.7 million) from 2014–15. Western Australia accounted for 20 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2015–16. In value terms, the wild–catch sector accounted for around 85 per cent ($504.1 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 15 per cent ($89.2 million).

Western Australia's wild–catch sector is dominated by the production of western rock lobster, which accounted for around 78 per cent of the state's total wild–catch production in 2015–16. Other major wild–catch seafood products include prawns (9 per cent) and crabs (2 per cent). Over the past decade the real value of Western Australian wild–caught fisheries is estimated to have declined by 6 per cent. The decline in value was mostly driven by a 39 per cent decline in total production volume.

The product for which the real value of production declined most over the past decade is scallops, falling by 90 per cent to $3 million in 2014–15. This was the result of a 94 per cent reduction in the volume caught. A large proportion of rock lobster production is exported, mostly to Hong Kong. Exchange rate movements have a significant effect on the value of rock lobster exports and, in turn, production.

Prawns also account for a significant proportion of Western Australian wild–catch production, accounting for an estimated 15 per cent and 8 per cent of the total volume and value, respectively, of wild–catch production in 2014–15. The value of prawn production increased by 4 per cent to $37.3 million in 2014–15. This mostly reflects a 2 per cent increase in average unit prices.

The real value of Western Australian aquaculture has declined over the past decade by 46 per cent to $89.2 million in 2015–16. Most of the decline can be attributed to a reduction in the value of pearl oyster production.

The value of aquaculture production in 2015–16 increased by 10 per cent ($8 million) to $89.2 million. This increase was mainly the result of a $10.5 million rise (15 per cent) in the value of pearl production. Pearls are the most valuable aquaculture product in the state and contributed around 88 per cent ($78.4 million) of aquaculture production value in 2015–16. The edible seafood component of Western Australia's aquaculture sector accounted for 12 per cent ($10.8 million) of total aquaculture production value in 2015–16.

In 2015–16, Western Australia's seafood product exports were valued at $504.9 million, representing a 4 per cent increase in value compared with 2014–15. The main export seafood product is western rock lobster, which accounted for 90 per cent of the state's exports of seafood in 2015–16. Other major export seafood products include prawns (5 per cent) and abalone (3 per cent). Vietnam and Hong Kong are the major destinations for Western Australia fisheries exports, accounting for 72 per cent and 13 per cent of the total value of exports in 2015–16, respectively. Other major export destinations include Japan (5 per cent) and United States (4 per cent).

Recreational fishing is a popular activity in Western Australia, with an estimated 752,000 people fishing recreationally in the state in 2015–16 (Department of Fisheries 2016). Most of the activity is the West Coast bioregion, around Perth and the surrounding area. Most boat-based recreational fishing effort occurred in coastal nearshore (60 per cent), inshore demersal (25 per cent) and estuary habitats (11 per cent), and the remainder in pelagic (2 per cent), offshore demersal (1 per cent) and freshwater (1 per cent). The key species caught by recreational fishers include School Whiting, Australian Herring, Pink Snapper, West Australian Dhufish, Silver Trevally, Black Bream, King George Whiting, Western King Wrasse, Breaksea Cod and Baldchin Groper (Ryan et al. 2017).

Forestry sector

In 2015–16, the total plantation area in Western Australia was 383,400 hectares, comprised of 276,400 hectares of hardwood plantations, 98,400 hectares of softwood plantations and 8,500 hectares of other plantations. The main hardwood species planted is blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and the main softwood species planted are maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) and radiata pine (Pinus radiata). In 2012, there were an estimated 15,000–23,000 hectares of commercial sandalwood plantations in Australia, mostly in the Outback region of Western Australia.

In 2016, there were 20.4 million hectares of native forests in Western Australia, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland forest (6.9 million hectares), Eucalypt mallee woodland forest (6.3 million hectares), Acacia forest (3.2 million hectares) and Eucalypt medium open forest (1.7 million hectares). The majority of native forests were on land classified as other Crown land (7.4 million hectares), while 5 million hectares were in nature conservation reserves and 4.1 million hectares were leasehold forests. Major timber industries are located at Albany, Bunbury, Dardanup, Dwellingup, Manjimup, Middlesex, Mount Barker, Neerabup and Yarloop.

In 2015–16, the volume of native hardwood logs harvested in Western Australia was 355,000 cubic metres valued at $28 million. The volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 3.7 million cubic metres valued at $262 million. The volume of softwood harvested was 912,000 cubic metres valued at $59 million. These values and volumes include Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Total sales and service income in the Western Australia forest and wood product industry was estimated at $1.5 billion in 2015–16. The income generated from the sale of wood products was $1.1 billion and the income generated from the sale of paper and paper products was $343 million.

In 2016, Western Australia's forestry sector employed 3,995 workers (0.3 per cent of the total employed workforce in Western Australia) compared with 5,581 (0.5 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, Western Australia
Shows the areas of native forest, by tenure in Western Australia. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.

Source: Australia's State of the Forest Report 2018, ABARES

References

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 16 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.

Department of Fisheries 2016, Annual Report to Parliament 2015/16, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia. 225 pp.

Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai EK, Smallwood, CB, Taylor, SM & Wise, BS 2017, Statewide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2015/16. Fisheries Research Report No. 287, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. 205pp.

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.

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Last reviewed:
05 Jun 2019