About my region – New South Wales

​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 New South Wales and the recent New South Wales financial performance of the broadacre, dairy and vegetable industries.

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​Regional overview

New South Wales covers a total area of around 800,400 square kilometres and is home to approximately 7,861,700 people (ABS 2018). Agricultural land in New South Wales occupies 647,900 square kilometres, or around 81 per cent of the state. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 108,600 square kilometres, or 14 per cent of the state. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 355,400 square kilometres or 44.4 per cent of the state (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in New South Wales


Source: Catchment scale land use of Australia - Update December 2018


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the August 2020 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 4 million people were employed in New South Wales.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 554,100 people, followed by professional, scientific and technical services with 412,000 people, and retail trade with 405,300 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 81,900 people or around 2 per cent of the state's workforce.

Employment profile, New South Wales, August 2020
Note: Annual average of the preceding 4 quarters.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, cat. no. 6291.0, Labour Force, Australia 2020

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2018–19, the gross value of agricultural production in New South Wales was $11.7 billion, which was 19 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia ($60 billion).

The most important commodities in New South Wales based on the gross value of agricultural production were cattle and calves ($2.6 billion), followed by wool ($1.2 billion) and sheep and lambs ($1.1 billion). These commodities together contributed 41 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the state.

Value of agricultural production, New South Wales, 2018–19
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 2020

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2018–19 there were 24,509 farms in New South Wales with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The state contains 30 per cent of all farm businesses in Australia.

Number of farms, by industry classification, New South Wales, 2018–19
Industry classification New South Wales Australia
Number of farms % of Region Number of farms Contribution of NSW to Australian total %
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised) 7,009 28.6 23,359 30.0
Sheep Farming (Specialised) 3,786 15.4 9,712 39.0
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming 3,037 12.4 9,385 32.4
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming 2,593 10.6 5,117 50.7
Other Grain Growing 1 904 7.8 8,259 23.1
Horse Farming 716 2.9 1,887 37.9
Dairy Cattle Farming 709 2.9 5,260 13.5
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing 635 2.6 1,856 34.2
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors) 631 2.6 2,591 24.4
Grape Growing 524 2.1 2,904 18.1
Other 2,966 12.1 10,817 27.4
Total agriculture 24,509 100.0 81,148 30.2

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, Customised report, 2020.

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (7,009 farms) were the most common, accounting for 29 per cent of all farms in New South Wales, and 30 per cent of all beef cattle farms in 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 41 per cent of farms in New South Wales had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 9 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2018–19. In comparison, 10 per cent of farms in the state had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 47 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in New South Wales in 2018–19.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, New South Wales, 2018–19
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in New South Wales. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.

Note: Only farms with an EVAO of $50,000 or more in 2018–19 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, Customised report, 2020

Farm financial performance

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

Fisheries sector

In 2017–18 the gross value product (GVP) of New South Wales fisheries production was $170.2 million, increasing by 11% ($16.3 million) from 2016–17. New South Wales contributed 5% of the total gross value of Australian fisheries production in 2017–18. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 58.5% ($99.5 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 41.5% ($70.7 million).

New South Wales wild-catch fishery production increased by 11% ($10.2 million) to $99.5 million in 2017–18. Finfish species contributed 46% of the total New South Wales wild-catch production, valued at $45.6 million, while Crustaceans contributed 44% to the total production. The most valuable Finfish species landed were Sea Mullet ($10.2 million), Eastern School Whiting ($5 million) and Black and Yellowfin Bream ($3.2 million). Prawns contributed 20% of the total value of wild-catch fisheries with a value of $19.6 million, while Eastern Rock Lobster contributed $11.6 million and Crabs $8.4 million. Abalone GVP increased by 50% to $5.5 million from 2016–17, despite an 11% decline in catch volume. The increase in wild-catch Abalone GVP was driven by a unit price increase due to growing demand from China.

In 2017–18 the value of New South Wales aquaculture production increased by 9% ($6.1 million) to $70.7 million. Oysters production (largely Sydney Rock Oysters) made the greatest contribution to New South Wales aquaculture production, increasing by 14% to $51.8 million – the highest value since 2003–04. Prawns ($5.8 million) and Finfish aquaculture species, including Silver Perch ($2.8 million), Trouts ($2.7 million) and Barramundi ($0.7 million) make up most of the remaining aquaculture production.

Commonwealth fisheries active in New South Wales include the Small Pelagic Fishery, the Eastern Tuna and Billfish fishery (mainly supplying export markets with Tunas) and the Commonwealth trawl sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark fishery. The Southern Squid Jig Fishery also operates in the waters of New South Wales.

In 2018–19, New South Wales fisheries product exports were valued at $28.8 million. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen Finfish, Tropical Rock Lobsters, and Abalone. Japan and China are the major destinations for New South Wales fisheries exports, accounting for 44% and 18% of the total value of exports in 2018–19, respectively. Other major export destinations include United States of America (14%) and Vietnam (8%).

The New South Wales coastline is an important recreational fishing area, with a multitude of inlets and estuaries from which to fish. There are also a range of game fishing tournaments throughout the year, including in the Bermagui and Port Stephens areas, targeting Tunas and Marlin species. New South Wales also contains several recreational only fishing areas, especially in the far south coast of New South Wales, a popular destination for both marine and freshwater recreational fishers. A large number of recreational fishers also fish in the Greater Sydney area, stretching from Newcastle to the Illawarra area, and comprising the city areas of Newcastle, Sydney, and Wollongong. Species commonly targeted in the area include Yellowfin Bream, Dusky Flathead, Blue Swimmer Crab, Squids, and Southern Calamari (Steffe & Murphy 2011).

Note: Where applicable the Australian Fish Names Standard AS SSA 5300-2019 is now used in this section. In this section standard fish names for groups of species or species families are not capitalised and employ the use of initial capital letters.

Forestry sector

In 2017–18, the total plantation area in New South Wales was 393,200 hectares, comprised of 87,100 hectares of hardwood plantations and 306,000 hectares of softwood plantations.

In 2016, New South Wales had 85 sawmills (including 17 softwood sawmills), 2 post and pole processors, 7 wood based panel processors and 5 paper and paperboard processors.

In 2016, there were 19.9 million hectares of native forests in New South Wales, comprised mainly of Eucalypt Medium Woodland (6.0 million hectares), Eucalypt Medium Open (4.7 million hectares) and Eucalypt Tall Open (2.3 million hectares).

In 2017–18, the volume of native hardwood logs harvested in New South Wales was 977,000 cubic metres, valued at $128.5 million. The volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested in New South Wales was 254,000 cubic metres, valued at $21.9 million. The volume of plantation softwood logs harvested in New South Wales was 5.0 million cubic metres, valued at $393.5 million.

In 2017–18, the estimated sales and service income generated from the sale of wood products in New South Wales was $4.7 billion and for paper and paper products was $4.0 billion.

In 2016, the New South Wales forestry sector employed 16,396 workers (0.52 per cent of the total employed workforce in New South Wales) compared with 21,082 (0.62 per cent) in 2011. The number of people employed includes the following categories: forestry and logging, forestry support services, wood product manufacturing and pulp, paper and converted paper product manufacturing.


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, Regional population by Age and Sex, Australia, 2017, cat. no. 3235.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 10 January 2019.

ABS 2020a, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, August 2020, cat. no. 6291.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 12 December  2020.

ABS 2020b, Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia, 2018-19, cat. no. 7503.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 29 May 2020.

Steffe, AS & Murphy, JJ 2011, Recreational fishing surveys in the Greater Sydney Region. Fisheries final report series, no. 131, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla, New South Wales.

Last reviewed: 5 March 2021
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