About my region – South Australia

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 South Australia and the recent financial performance of the South Australian broadacre, dairy, and vegetable industries.

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Regional overview

South Australia covers a total area of around 983,300 square kilometres and is home to approximately 1.7 million people (ABS 2018). Agricultural land in South Australia occupies 522,300 square kilometres, or about 53 per cent of the state. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 417,600 square kilometres, or 42 per cent of the state. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 410,100 square kilometres or 42 per cent of the state (ABARES 2016).

Broad land use in South Australia
Shows a map of broad land use in South Australia. 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 August 2020 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 839,400 people were employed in South Australia.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 128,100 people, followed by retail trade with 86,700 people, and manufacturing with 72,900 people. Other important employment sectors in the state were education and training; construction; and professional, scientific and technical services. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 30,300 people, representing around 4 per cent of the state's workforce.

Employment profile, South Australia, August 2020
Shows the number of people employed in South Australia 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 South Australia was $6.8 billion, which was 11 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia ($60 billion).

The most important commodities in South Australia based on the gross value of agricultural production were wheat ($1 billion), followed by wool ($574 million) and sheep and lambs ($525 million). These commodities together contributed 31 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the state.

Value of agricultural production, South Australia, 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 2018–19 there were 8,917 farms in South Australia with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The state contains 11 per cent of all farm businesses in Australia.

Number of farms, by industry classification, South Australia, 2018–19
Industry classification South Australia region Australia
Number of farms % of Region Number of farms Contribution of SA to Australian total %
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming 1,775 19.9 9,385 18.9
Other Grain Growing 1,695 19.0 8,259 20.5
Sheep Farming (Specialised) 1,556 17.5 9,712 16.0
Grape Growing 1,307 14.7 2,904 45.0
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)  688 7.7 23,359 2.9
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming 501 5.6 5,117 9.8
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors) 202 2.3 2,591 7.8
Dairy Cattle Farming 192 2.2 5,260 3.7
Vegetable Growing (Under Cover) 186 2.1  350 53.2
Citrus Fruit Growing 161 1.8  703 22.9
Other 653 7.3 13,508 4.8
Total agriculture 8,917 100.0 81,148 11.0

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, 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 (1,775 farms) were the most common, accounting for about 20 per cent of all farms in South 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 30 per cent of farms in South Australia had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 5 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2018–19. In comparison, 15 per cent of farms in the state had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 55 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in South Australia in 2018–19.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, South Australia, 2018–19
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the South Australia 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, dairy and vegetable farms in South Australia.

Fisheries sector

In 2017–18 the gross value production (GVP) of South Australia's fisheries and aquaculture decreased by 3% ($13.9 million) to $469.7 million from 2016–17. This decline resulted mainly from an 11% fall in the value of aquaculture production. South Australia contributed 15% of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2017–18. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 56% ($264 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 44% ($205.7 million).

South Australia's wild-catch fisheries sector is dominated by four main products – Southern Rock Lobster, Prawns, Abalone and Australian Sardines – which accounted for 46% ($122.6 million), 19% ($51.2 million), 10% ($27.2 million) and 10% ($26.4 million) respectively of the total value of wild-caught production in 2017–18. In the 10 years up to 2017–18 the real value of South Australia's wild-caught fisheries products has increased by 2.5% to $264 million (2015–16), with a 4% increase in GVP in 2017–18. The increase in 2017–18 was primarily driven by increases in catch and price for a number of species. Catch of Prawns increased by 6% to 2,577 tonnes and value increased by 11% to $51.2 million. Of the wild-caught Finfish species, Australian Sardines made the largest contribution to GVP, increasing by 11% in value in 2017–18 to $26.4 million. Australian Sardines are predominantly used as feed for Tunas produced by SA Southern Bluefin Tuna ranching sector (Econsearch 2018). Australian Sardines have a low unit value but are caught in large volumes. In 2017–18 Australian Sardines accounted for 82% of the 52,833 tonnes of wild-caught production.

In 2017–18 the value of South Australia's aquaculture production is estimated to have declined by 11% from $230.5 million in 2016–17 to $205.7 million in 2017–18. A leading factor in the decline of Aquaculture GVP in South Australia was the volume of Oysters (predominantly Pacific Oyster) produced in 2017–18. The volume of Oysters produced declined by 58% in 2017–18 to 2,177 tonnes. As a result, in 2017–18 the GVP of Oysters halved from 2016–17 levels to $20.2 million. The decline in production is due to the outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) diseases in Tasmania in 2016. While South Australia is classified as POMS free, the South Australian Oyster industry is heavily reliant on spat grown in Tasmania, meaning that production has been limited since the POMS outbreak (Nogrady 2019). Southern Bluefin Tuna accounts for 61% of aquaculture GVP, with a production value of $126.0 million. Southern Bluefin Tuna is ranched off the coast of Port Lincoln and is mostly exported to the Japanese market as a high-value product (DA 2015).

Commonwealth fisheries active in waters off South Australia include the Commonwealth Trawl Sector (main source of domestic fresh fish for Sydney and Melbourne markets) the Shark Gillnet and Shark Hook Sectors of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (supplies Gummy Shark or flake to Melbourne) and the Great Australian Bight sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery harvesting mainly Redfish and Flathead. The Small Pelagic Fishery (mostly fishmeal for aquaculture and agriculture) also operates in the waters off South Australia.

In 2018–19, South Australia's fisheries product exports were valued at $261 million. The main export products include Tunas, Southern Rock Lobster and Abalone. Japan, China and Hong Kong are the major destinations for South Australian fisheries exports, accounting for 46%, 30% and 13% of the total value of exports in 2018–19, respectively.

Recreational fishing is popular in South Australia with an estimated 277,027 South Australians (five years and over) participating in the activity in the 12 months prior to November 2013. Most fishing effort is directed to Spencer Gulf (37%) and the Gulf St. Vincent and Kangaroo Island waters (28%), followed by West Coast (16%) and the South East waters (6%), with 87% of effort occurring in marine waters, including estuaries, and inshore and offshore waters. The remaining 13% of effort was in freshwater activity, with the majority of this effort occurring in the River Murray. The key species caught by recreational fishers include King George Whiting, Australian Herring, Southern Garfish, Breams, Yellowfin Whiting, Blue Swimmer Crab, Pipi and Southern Calamari (Giri and Hall 2015).

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 South Australia was 172,200 hectares, comprised of 44,800 hectares of hardwood plantations and 127,200 hectares of softwood plantations.

In 2016, South Australia had 13 sawmills, 2 post and pole processors, 2 wood-based panel processors and one paper and paperboard processor.

In 2016, there were 4.8 million hectares of native forests in South Australia, comprised mainly of Eucalypt Mallee Woodland (3.7 million hectares), Casuarina (252,400 hectares) and Eucalypt Mallee Open (208,100 hectares).

In 2017–18 the volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 1.1 million cubic metres valued at $88.0 million. The volume of softwood logs harvested was 3.1 million cubic metres valued at $245.7 million. There is no native hardwood harvesting in South Australia.

In 2017–18, the estimated sales and service income generated from the sale of wood products in South Australia was $1.2 billion. Sales and service income for paper and paper products is not available for 2017–18.

In 2016 the South Australia forestry sector employed 5,520 workers (0.74 per cent) of the total employed workforce in South Australia compared with 6,500 (0.88 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, 2018, 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.

DA 2015, Australia’s seafood trade (PDF 1.5 MB), Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Canberra.

Econsearch 2018, The economic contribution of aquaculture in the South Australian state and regional economies, 2016/1 (PDF 1.4 MB), report to Primary Industries and Regions South Australia Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Giri K and Hall K 2015, South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey (PDF 2.1 MB). Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62.

Nogrady, B 2019, POMS: where is the Pacific Oyster industry now?, Fisheries Research & Development Corporation News, vol. 27, no. 3, September 2019.

Last reviewed: 20 April 2021
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