About my region – Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday 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 Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region and the recent Queensland financial performance of the broadacre, beef, grains, dairy and vegetable industries.

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​​​Regional overview

The Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region of Queensland is located in the east of the state and includes the Whitsunday Islands. The region comprises the three local government areas of Isaac, Mackay, and Whitsunday, and the major regional centre of Mackay. The region covers a total area of around 89,900 square kilometres, or 5 per cent of Queensland's total area, and is home to approximately 172,600 people (ABS 2018).

Agricultural land in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region occupies 79,800 square kilometres, or 89 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 6,600 square kilometres, or 7 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 42,500 square kilometres or 47 per cent of the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Mackay 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 May 2020 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 92,100 people were employed in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region. The region accounts for 4 per cent of total employment in Queensland and 3 per cent of all people employed in the Queensland agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Mining was the largest employment sector with 14,100 people, followed by health care and social assistance with 11,400 people, and construction with 9,200 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were retail trade; transport, postal and warehousing; and manufacturing. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 2,300 people, representing 2 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region, May 2020
Shows the number of people employed in the Mackay 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 2020

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2018–19, the gross value of agricultural production in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region was $1.3 billion, which was 10 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Queensland ($12.9 billion).

The Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region has a diverse agricultural sector. The most important commodities in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region based on the gross value of agricultural production were cattle and calves ($622 million), followed by sugarcane ($362 million) and tomatoes ($69 million). These commodities together contributed 82 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region. In 2018–19 the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region accounted for 46 per cent ($32 million) of the state's capsicum production.

Value of agricultural production, Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region, 2018–19
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 2020

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2017–18 there were 1,713 farms in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The region contains 10 per cent of all farm businesses in Queensland.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region, 2017–18
Industry classification Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region ​Queensland
Number of farms % of Region Number of farms Contribution of region to state total %
Sugar Cane Growing        983 57.4      2,939 33.4
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)        538 31.4      8,288 6.5
Other Grain Growing           51 3.0          985 5.2
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)           45 2.6          639 7.1
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing           28 1.6          761 3.6
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming           26 1.5          821 3.1
Other           42 2.5      2,915 1.4
Total agriculture     1,713 100    17,348 9.9

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 2019

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Sugar cane farms (983 farms) were the most common, accounting for 57 per cent of all farms in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region, and 33 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 16 per cent of farms in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region 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 2017–18. In comparison, 33 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $500,000 and accounted for an estimated 75 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region in 2017–18.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Mackay- Isaac - Whitsunday region, 2017–18
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Mackay region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Note: Only farms with an EVAO of $50,000 or more in 2017–18 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 2019

Farm financial performance

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

Fisheries sector

Mackay – Isaac – Whitsunday is a key region for commercial and recreational fishing. In 2018–19, 1,467 tonnes of commercial catch was sourced in the region including 273 tonnes Coral Trouts, 13 tonnes Mud Crab, 128 tonnes Banana Prawns, 112 tonnes Black Jewfish and 96 tonnes Redthroat Emperor (QDAF 2020a). Several state fisheries are active in the area including the East Coast Trawl Fishery targeting Prawns, Bugs, Blue Swimmer Crabs, Squids and Scallops (DPI&F 2008) and the East Coast Trochus Fishery whose primary fishing area is offshore from Mackay (DEEDI 2010). Other commercial species harvested by Queensland fisheries in the region include Shark, Crabs, Mackerels, Mullets and Barramundi.

Aquaculture is also common in the area, with numerous small-scale aquaculture industries located in and around Bowen, Whitsunday, Mackay, Sarina and Ilbilbie focusing primarily on Prawns and Barramundi production. The value of aquaculture production in the region was estimated at $13.3 million in 2018–19, accounting for approximately 11% of Queensland’s total aquaculture value and 13% (1,024.4 tonnes) of Queensland’s total production (Schofield 2020).

Recreational fishing is popular amongst Mackay – Isaac – Whitsunday region residents – 34.4% of the population fished recreationally at least once in 2019, a participation rate significantly higher than the state average of 18.7% (QDAF 2020b). Fishing in the region occurs primarily by boat in local coastal waters and adjacent estuaries and enclosed coastal zones. The most commonly targeted species were Mud Crabs, Barred Javelin, Barramundi, Coral Trouts and Yellowfin Bream. The most commonly caught species were Sand Whiting, Mud Crabs and Barred Javelin. The region is also a popular destination for fishers travelling from other regions of Queensland and elsewhere in Australia (Webley et al 2015).

Queensland state data

In 2017–18 the total gross value product (GVP) of Queensland's fisheries production was $294.4 million, a decrease of 5% ($14.9 million) from 2016–17. Queensland contributed 9% of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2017–18. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 61% ($180.2 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 39% ($114.2 million).

Queensland's wild-catch fisheries sector provides a range of fisheries products. The highest contribution being from Prawns and Coral Trouts. The GVP of wild-catch fisheries in Queensland decreased by 7% in 2017–18 to $180.2 million. Contributing to this decline was a decrease in the landed volume of Prawns (39% of total value of wild-catch; $70.1 million) and Coral Trouts (15% of total value of wild-catch; $27.1 million). The aggregate wild-caught GVP of Prawns, comprising mainly King Prawns, Tiger Prawns, Banana Prawns and Endeavour Prawns, decreased by 12% in 2017–18. The value of Coral Trouts decreased by 2% as a result of decreased catch.

The value of Queensland's aquaculture production decreased by 2% in 2017–18 to $114.2 million. This was largely due to a 4% decline in the GVP of Prawns to $74.7 million — down from $77.8 million in 2016–17; and lower production value of Barramundi, which declined by $1.5 million to $26.9 million. Prawns are Queensland’s biggest contributor to the aquaculture sector. The volume of aquaculture Prawns harvested for commercial purposes declined by 8% from 4,264 tonnes in 2016–17 to 3,921 tonnes in 2017–18. In 2016–17 prawn farms in the Logan River region of southern Queensland were destocked following an outbreak of White Spot Disease (McCarthy 2016; Mobsby & Curtotti 2019), with industry still rebuilding in 2017–18. In 2017–18 Queensland aquaculture production was dominated by Prawns and Barramundi, which together comprised 89% of GVP.

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 Tunas) and the Coral Sea Fishery.

In 2018–19, Queensland's fisheries product exports were valued at $185.8 million. Hong Kong and the China are the major destinations for Queensland fisheries exports, accounting for 29% and 21% of the total value of exports in 2018–19, respectively. Other major export destinations include Japan (15%) and United States of America (12%).

Recreational fishing is popular in Queensland. The results of the 2019–20 state wide and regional recreational fishing survey stated that 18.7% of Queensland’s population participated in recreational fishing in 2019 (approximately 943,000 people) (QDAF 2020). Total expenditure in the sector was 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. Popular target species include Crabs, Prawns and a range of Finfish species including Cods and Groupers, Coral Trouts, Redthroat Emperor and Mackerels. For freshwater activity some key species caught include Barramundi, Eels, Silver Perch and Yabbies.

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 2014–15, the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region was 1,400 hectares, comprised of 800 hectares of hardwood plantations and 700 hectares of softwood plantations. The main hardwood plantation species in Queensland is Dunns white gum (Eucalyptus dunnii). The main softwood plantation species in Queensland are Slash Pine hybrid (Pinus elliottii hybrid), Southern Pine hybrid (Pinus caribaea hybrid) and Hoop pines (Araucaria cunninghamii).

In 2016 there were 3.4 million hectares of native forests in the Mackay - Isaac - Whitsunday region, comprised mainly of Eucalypt Medium Woodland (2.0 million hectares), Eucalypt Medium Open (512,100 hectares) and Acacia (316,800 hectares). The majority of the native forests were leasehold land (1,839,700 hectares), while 927,000 hectares were privately managed and 250,900 hectares were on multiple use public forest available for timber production.

Queensland state data

In 2017–18, the total plantation area in Queensland was 230,500 hectares, comprised of 34,800 hectares of hardwood plantations and 195,600 hectares of softwood plantations.

In 2016, Queensland had 77 sawmills (including 31 softwood sawmills), 3 post and pole processors, 6 wood-based panel processors and 2 paper and paperboard processors.

In 2016, there were 51.6 million hectares of native forests in Queensland, comprised mainly of Eucalypt Medium Woodland (27.1 million hectares), Melaleuca (5.1 million hectares) and Acacia (5.1 million hectares).

In 2017–18 the volume of native hardwood logs harvested in Queensland was 279 thousand cubic metres valued at $39.7 million. There were no plantation hardwood logs harvested in this period. The volume of softwood logs harvested was 2.9 million cubic metres valued at $257.6 million.

In 2017–18, the estimated sales and service income generated from the sale of wood products in Queensland was $2.6 billion. Sales and service income for paper and paper products is not available for 2017–18.

In 2016 the Queensland forestry sector employed 9,520 workers (0.45 per cent) of the total employed workforce in Queensland compared with 12,840 (0.63 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, May 2020, cat. no. 6291.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 30 June 2020.

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

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

DEEDI 2011, Annual status report 2011 River and Inshore Beam Trawl Fishery (PDF 244 KB), Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Queensland.


DPI&F 2008, Annual status report 2008 East Coast Trawl Fishery, Brisbane, Queensland.

McCarthy, M 2016, White spot outbreak a ‘wake-up call’ for Australia’s biosecurity system, as prawn farmers claim imports are to blame, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 December 2019, accessed 15 October 2019. 

Mobsby, D & Curtotti, R 2019, ABARES annual fisheries outlook 2019, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Department of Agriculture, Canberra, accessed 5 October 2019.

QDAF 2020a, QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland.

QDAF 2020b, Statewide recreational Fishing Surveys, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Schofield, R 2020, Ross Lobegeiger report to farmers Aquaculture production summary for Queensland 2018-19 (PDF 2.4 MB), Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson A & Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013-14, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland.
Last reviewed: 24 July 2020
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