About my region – Queensland – Outback

​​​​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 fisheries sectors in the Queensland – Outback region and the recent Queensland financial performance of the broadacre, dairy and vegetable industries.

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​​​Regional overview

The Queensland – Outback region includes in the west and the far north of the state, and spans from the tip of Cape York to the borders of the Northern Territory and New South Wales. The region comprises 34 local government areas. The region includes the regional centres of Charleville, Longreach and Mount Isa. The region covers a total area of around 1,182,300 square kilometres, or 68 per cent of Queensland's total area, and is home to approximately 82,200 people (ABS 2018).

Agricultural land in the Queensland – Outback region occupies 1,022,500 square kilometres, or 86 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 147,400 square kilometres, or 12 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 965,700 square kilometres or 82 per cent of the Queensland – Outback region (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in the Queensland – Outback region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Queensland Outback 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


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the November 2019 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 39,600 people were employed in the Queensland – Outback region. The region accounts for 2 per cent of total employment in Queensland and 14 per cent of all people employed in the Queensland agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing was the largest employment sector with 10,700 people, followed by public administration and safety with 4,800 people, and health care and social assistance with 4,500 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were mining; retail trade; and education and training. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector represented 27 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Queensland - Outback region, November 2019
Shows the number of people employed in the Outback 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 the Queensland – Outback region was $2.2 billion, which was 16 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Queensland ($13 billion).

The most important commodity in the region based on the gross value of agricultural production was cattle and calves ($1.9 billion) which contributed 88 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region. Other important commodities in the region were wool ($52 million) followed by mangoes ($34 million).

Value of agricultural production, Queensland – Outback region, 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 2017–18 there were 1,769 farms in the Queensland – Outback 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, Queensland – Outback region, 2017–18
Industry classification Queensland – Outback Queensland
Number of farms % of Region Number of farms Contribution of region to state total %
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)     1,298 73.4      8,288 15.7
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming        183 10.4          291 63.0
Sheep Farming (Specialised)           78 4.4          166 46.9
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing           67 3.8          761 8.8
Citrus Fruit Growing           52 3.0          201 26.1
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)           22 1.3          639 3.5
Other           68 3.8      7,002 1.0
Total agriculture     1,769 100    17,348 10.2

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 2019

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (1,298 farms) were the most common, accounting for 73 per cent of all farms in the Queensland – Outback region, and 16 per cent of all beef 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 13 per cent of farms in the Queensland – Outback region had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for about 1 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2017–18. In comparison, 31 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $ 1 million and accounted for an estimated 72 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Queensland – Outback region in 2017–18.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Queensland – Outback region, 2017–18
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Outback 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, diary and vegetable farms in Queensland.

Fisheries sector

The coastal areas of this region include the Queensland coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, the coastal areas of Cape York and the Torres Strait. This region is an important area for the wild harvest of prawns. The East Coast Trawl Fishery, which is the largest of Queensland's commercial fisheries, operates in the region extending from the Cape York along the east coast south to the border with New South Wales. The fishery targets mostly prawns, but also harvests bugs, squid, scallops and other species. The main fishery in the Gulf of Carpentaria is the Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery, the most valuable single gear fishery managed by the Commonwealth ($115.2 million in 2013–14), which extends across Northern Australia. This fishery targets tiger and banana prawns in the Torres Strait, one of the most valuable commercial fisheries is the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery, that targets mostly endeavour and tiger prawns. Karumba is a key fishing port in the region.

Fisheries in the Torres Strait area are managed under the 1985 Torres Strait Treaty between Australian and Papua New Guinea. Marine resources are a staple in the diet of Torres Strait Islanders, as well as being central to traditional island culture and a primary source of income. In terms of commercial fisheries, the tropical rocklobster fishery is the most valuable ($20.9 million in 2013–14) and other fisheries include spanish mackerel, coral trout, barramundi, trochus and sea cucumber. The region is also important for pearl production, both farming and wild–catch (The Queensland East Coast Pearl Fishery and Torres Strait pearl shell fishery).

In 2013–14, the Far North (comprising both Outback Queensland and Cairns regions) area produced 2,804 tonnes of aquaculture production, utilising 409.1 hectares of ponds. The aquaculture industry in the area employed approximately 151.1 persons in 2013–14 (Heidenreich 2014). Aquaculture species produced in the Far North area include barramundi, jade perch, prawns and pearls.

The outback region of Queensland is sparsely populated but has a high participation rate for recreational fishing amongst its residents at 23 per cent, significantly higher than the state average of 17 per cent (Taylor et al. 2012). The Murray-Darling Rivers catchment is the most heavily fished by residents of the outback region but also by Darling Downs and Brisbane residents. The western Queensland and Gulf Country rivers are also fished by residents. The Gulf Country is a popular destination for fishers living in other Queensland regions as well as fishing tourists from New South Wales and Victoria. In the freshwater rivers and dams the catch consists of mainly golden perch and yabbies. In the Gulf Country and Cape York, barramundi is the main species caught by fishers although most fish are released. Threadfin salmon, mud crab, catfish and sooty grunter are also common in the recreational catch from the Gulf Country. On the east coast of Cape York, bream, whiting, tropical snapper and coral trout are the dominant species in the recreational catch.

In 2015–16 the total gross value of Queensland's fisheries production was $291.1 million, a decrease of 1 per cent ($2.1 million) from 2014–15. Queensland contributed 10 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2015–16. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 60 per cent ($175.9 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 40 per cent ($118.3 million).

Queensland's wild-catch fisheries sector provides a range of fisheries products. The highest contribution being from prawns, which account for 36 per cent of the total value of wild-catch fisheries production with a value of $62.7 million, followed by coral trout (15 per cent; $26.8 million) and crabs (14 per cent; $24.2 million). Over the last decade the real value of Queensland's wild-caught fisheries products has reduced by 37 per cent. Prawns, snapper and shark, showed the largest decline in the value of production over the past decade, reducing by 35 per cent, 77 per cent and 66 per cent respectively. Competition from imported prawns in the domestic market has also placed significant downward pressure on prices in recent years.

The value of Queensland's aquaculture production has increased by 4 per cent in 2015–16 to $118.3 million. Prawn and barramundi farming account for the largest share of production by value, with prawns accounting for 68 per cent, and $80.5 million of production, followed by barramundi (25 per cent; $29.3 million).

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 tuna) and the Coral Sea Fishery.

In 2015–16, Queensland's fisheries product exports were valued at $199.6 million. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen fish, prawns and rock lobster. Hong Kong, Japan and the United States are the major destinations for Queensland fisheries exports, accounting for 42 per cent, 17 per cent and 14 per cent of the total value of exports in 2015–16, respectively. Other major export destinations include China (7 per cent) and Vietnam (4 per cent).

Recreational fishing is popular in Queensland. The results of the 2013–14 state wide and regional recreational fishing survey report that recreational fishing continues to be a popular activity; however the participation rate has dropped from 17 per cent in 2010 to 15 per cent in 2013. In the 12 months prior to November 2013 approximately 700,000 Queenslanders went recreational fishing (QDAF 2015). Total expenditure in the sector is 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 and Australia. Popular target species include crabs, prawns and a range of finfish species including cods and groupers, coral trout, redthroat emperor, rosy snapper, and mackerel. For freshwater activity some key species caught include barramundi, eels, silver perch, and yabby and blueclaw crayfish.

Forestry sector

In 2014–15, the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the Queensland – Outback region was comprised of 2,600 hectares of hardwood 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 29.8 million hectares of native forests in the Queensland – Outback region, comprised mainly of Eucalypt Medium Woodland (15.4 million hectares), Melaleuca (4.8 million hectares) and Acacia (3.7 million hectares). The majority of the native forests were leasehold land (20,374,600 hectares), while 7,159,000 hectares were privately managed and 1,564,900 hectares were on in conservation reserves.

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.


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 2019a Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, November 2019, cat. no. 6291.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 15 January 2020.

ABS 2019b Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia, 2017-18, cat. no. 7503.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 15 May 2019.

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

Heidenreich M 2015, Ross Lobegeiger report to farmers: Aquaculture production summary for Queensland 2014–15 (PDF 883 KB), Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland.

QDAF 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Surveys, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Taylor, S, Webley, J & McInnes, K 2012, 2010 Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Brisbane, Queensland.

Last reviewed: 22 January 2020
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