About my region – Riverina 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 and forestry sectors in the Riverina region and the recent New South Wales financial performance of the broadacre, dairy and vegetable industries.

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Regional overview

The Riverina region of New South Wales is located in the south of the state, extending from the Snowy Mountains north west through the Murrumbidgee River catchment area. The region includes the major regional centres of Wagga Wagga and Griffith and the local government areas of Coolamon, Griffith, Gundagai, Junee, Leeton, Lockhart, Narrandera, Snowy Valleys, Temora, and Wagga Wagga, as well as parts of Bland, Carrathool, Greater Hume Shire, Federation, Murrumbidgee, and Yass Valley local government areas. The region covers a total area of around 57,000 square kilometres or 7 per cent of New South Wales and is home to approximately 160,000 people (ABS 2018).

Agricultural land in the Riverina region occupies 44,600 square kilometres, or 78 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 9,100 square kilometres, or 16 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing modified pastures, which occupies 22,100 square kilometres or 39 per cent of the Riverina region (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in the Riverina region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Riverina 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

Employment

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the August 2020 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 80,600 people were employed in the Riverina region. The region accounts for 2 per cent of total employment in New South Wales and 11 per cent of all people employed in the New South Wales agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 12,300 people, followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing sector with 9,200 people, and manufacturing with 8,900 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were education and training; public administration and safety; and construction. Agriculture, forestry and fishing sector represented 11 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Riverina region, August 2020
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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 the Riverina region was $2.5 billion, which was 21 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in New South Wales ($11.7 billion).

The Riverina region has a diverse agricultural sector. The most important commodities in the region based on the gross value of agricultural production were cattle and calves ($334 million), followed by wheat ($301 million) and poultry ($272 million). These commodities together contributed 36 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region. In 2018–19 the Riverina region accounted for 71 per cent ($22 million) of the total value of the state's rice production.

Value of agricultural production, Riverina region, New South Wales 2018–19
Shows the gross value of agricultural production in the Riverina 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 2020

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2018–19 there were 3,289 farms in the Riverina region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The region contains 13 per cent of all farm businesses in New South Wales.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Riverina region, 2018–19
Industry classification Riverina region New South Wales
Number of farms % of Region Number of farms Contribution of region to state total %
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming  740 22.5  3,037 24.4
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)  718 21.8  7,009 10.2
Other Grain Growing  530 16.1  1,904 27.8
Sheep Farming (Specialised)  311 9.5  3,786 8.2
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming  234 7.1  2,593 9.0
Grape Growing  218 6.6  524 41.6
Citrus Fruit Growing  165 5.0  268 61.5
Cotton Growing  88 2.7  414 21.3
Horse Farming  37 1.1  716 5.2
Other  248 7.5  4,259 5.8
Total agriculture  3,289 100  24,509 13.4

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. Grain-sheep or grain-beef cattle farms (740 farms) were the most common, accounting for 23 per cent of all farms in the Riverina region, and 24 per cent of all grain-sheep or grain-beef cattle farms in New South Wales.

Estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) is a measure of the value of production from farms and a measure of their business size. Around 32 per cent of farms in the Riverina region had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 6 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2018–19. In comparison, 13 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 52 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Riverina region in 2018–19.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Riverina region, 2018–19
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Riverina region. 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, beef, sheep, grains, dairy and vegetable farms in New South Wales.

Forestry sector

In 2014–15 the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the Riverina region was about 96,900 hectares, comprised of less than 100 hectares of hardwood plantations and 96,840 hectares of softwood plantations. The main hardwood plantation species in New South Wales are Dunns white gum (Eucalyptus dunnii), blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) and shining gum (Eucalyptus nitens). The main softwood plantation species in New South Wales are radiata pine (Pinus radiata) and other pine species (various).

In 2016 there were about 1.0 million hectares of native forests in the Riverina region, comprised mainly of Eucalypt Medium Open (496,700 hectares), Eucalypt Medium Woodland (116,500 hectares) and Eucalypt Mallee Woodland (112,900 hectares). The majority of the native forests were in conservation reserves (441,100 hectares), while 271,800 hectares were privately managed and 149,500 hectares were on leasehold land. There were 126,000 hectares on multiple use native forest available for wood production.

New South Wales state data

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.

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 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.

Last reviewed: 9 March 2021
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