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

[expand all]

Regional overview

The Townsville region of Queensland is located in the north east of the state. The region comprises the four local government areas of Burdekin, Charters Towers, Hinchinbrook, and Townsville, and the major regional centres of Charters Towers, Townsville, Ayr and Ingham. The region covers a total area of around 79,900 square kilometres, or 5 per cent of Queensland's total area, and is home to approximately 235,700 people (ABS 2018).

Agricultural land in the Townsville region occupies 68,200 square kilometres, or 85 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 10,400 square kilometres, or 13 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 61,700 square kilometres or 77 per cent of the Townsville region (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in the Townsville region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Townsville 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 109,700 people were employed in the Townsville region. The region accounts for 4 per cent of total employment in Queensland and 4 per cent of all people employed in the Queensland agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 18,800 people, followed by retail trade with 12,800 people, and public administration and safety with 9,400 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were education and training; accommodation and food services; and manufacturing. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 3,400 people, representing 3 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Townsville region, November 2019
Shows the number of people employed in the Townsville 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 Townsville region was $930 million, which was 7 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Queensland ($13 billion).

The most important commodities in the Townsville region based on the gross value of agricultural production were sugarcane ($438 million), followed by cattle and calves ($337 million) and melons ($26 million). These commodities together contributed 86 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region. The Townsville region accounted for 85 per cent ($2 million) of the total value of Queensland's rice production in 2017–18.

Value of agricultural production, Townsville 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 1,295 farms in the Townsville region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The region contains 7 per cent of all farm businesses in Queensland.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Townsville region, 2017–18
Industry classification Townsville region Queensland
Number of farms % of Region Number of farms Contribution of region to state total %
Sugar Cane Growing        887 68.5      2,939 30.2
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)        311 24.0      8,288 3.8
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)           29 2.3          639 4.6
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing           22 1.7          761 2.9
Horse Farming           14 1.1          346 4.1
Other           32 2.5      4,376 0.7
Total agriculture     1,295 100    17,348 7.0

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 2019

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Sugar cane farms (887 farms) were the most common, accounting for 68 per cent of all farms in the Townsville region, and 30 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 14 per cent of farms in the Townsville region had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for about 2 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2017–18. In comparison, 18 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 59 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Townsville region in 2017–18.

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

Fisheries sector

Townsville is one of the main commercial fishing ports in Queensland. The East Coast Trawl Fishery is the largest of Queensland's commercial fisheries operating in the region targeting mostly prawns (tiger, red–spot king, endeavour and banana), and also harvesting bugs and squid. Other key commercial species for Queensland fisheries in the region include mackerel, barramundi, threadfin and mud crabs.

The Townsville area produced 1,826 tonnes of aquaculture production in 2016–17 utilising 144.6 hectares of ponds. The aquaculture industry in the area employed approximately 83.8 persons in 2016–17 (Lobegeiger 2018). Aquaculture species produced in the Townsville area include barramundi, red claw crayfish, and prawns.

The proportion of residents in the Townsville region that fish at least once each year is 20 per cent, higher than the Queensland average of 17 per cent (Taylor et. al. 2012). Residents of the region mainly fish in coastal waters and adjacent reefs within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park near Townsville and Cairns, and the estuaries and freshwater reaches of the central coast catchment. In terms of numbers, the most common species caught in this region is the mud crab. Finfish such as bream, mangrove jack and barramundi are caught in the rivers and coral trout, trevally and tropical snapper are targeted by inshore boat fishers. This region is a popular destination for fishers travelling from other regions of Queensland and other states.

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 Townsville region was 5,000 hectares, comprised of 200 hectares of hardwood plantations and 4,800 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 4.3 million hectares of native forests in the Townsville region, comprised mainly of Eucalypt Medium Woodland (3.1 million hectares), Acacia (347,400 hectares) and Eucalypt Low Woodland (250,400 hectares). The majority of the native forests were leasehold land (3,389,700 hectares), while 360,800 hectares were privately managed and 266,300 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.

Lobegeiger, R, 2018, Aquaculture production summary for Queensland 2016–17, Queensland Government.

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
Thanks for your feedback.
Thanks! Your feedback has been submitted.

We aren't able to respond to your individual comments or questions.
To contact us directly phone us or submit an online inquiry

Please verify that you are not a robot.