About my region – Outback 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 and fisheries sectors in the Outback South Australia region and the recent financial performance of the South Australian broadacre, dairy, and vegetable industries.
The Outback region of South Australia covers the north of the state, plus the Eyre Peninsula. The region comprises seventeen local government areas and the regional centres of Ceduna, Port Augusta and Port Lincoln. The region covers a total area of around 877,400 square kilometres or 89 per cent of South Australia's total area and is home to approximately 85,100 people (ABS 2018).
Agricultural land in the Outback region occupies about 437,500 square kilometres, or 50 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 402,100 square kilometres, or 46 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 403,200 square kilometres or 46 per cent of the Outback region (ABARES 2016).
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the November 2019 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 39,300 people were employed in the South Australia – Outback region. The South Australia – Outback region accounts for about 5 per cent of total employment in South Australia and 12 per cent of all people employed in the South Australian agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.
Retail trade was the largest employment sector with 4,700 people, followed by health care and social assistance with 4,000 people, and agriculture, forestry and fishing with 3,900 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were mining; education and training; and construction. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector represented 10 per cent of the region's workforce.
Value of agricultural production
In 2017–18, the gross value of agricultural production in the South Australia – Outback region was $795 million, which was 12 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in South Australia ($6.6 billion).
The South Australia – Outback region has a diverse agricultural sector. The most important commodities in the region based on the gross value of agricultural production were wheat ($300 million), sheep and lambs ($138 million) and wool ($127 million). These commodities together contributed 71 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region.
Number and type of farms
ABS data indicate that in 2017–18 there were 1,142 farms in the South Australia – Outback region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The region contains 13 per cent of all farm businesses in South Australia.
|Industry classification||Outback region||South Australia|
|Number of farms||% of Region||Number of farms||Contribution of region to state total %|
|Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming||454||39.8||1,910||23.8|
|Other Grain Growing||391||34.3||1,813||21.6|
|Sheep Farming (Specialised)||210||18.4||1,273||16.5|
|Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)||57||4.9||675||8.4|
|Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming||20||1.8||578||3.5|
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. Grain-sheep or grain-beef cattle farms (454 farms) were the most common, accounting for 40 per cent of all farms in the South Australia – Outback region, and 24 per cent of all grain-sheep or grain-beef cattle 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 12 per cent of farms in the South Australia – Outback region had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only around 1 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2017–18. In comparison, 25 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 South Australia – Outback region in 2017–18.
Farm financial performance
Estimates of financial performance are available for all broadacre, dairy and vegetable farms in South Australia.
The Outback region of South Australia contains a significant seafood industry, including both wild–catch and aquaculture sectors. Port Lincoln and the surrounding local government area have the highest percentage of employment in the fishing and aquaculture sector. King George whiting and snapper are important endemic species for recreational, commercial and charter fishers in the region and South Australia more broadly. Other popular wild–catch species include abalone, southern rock lobster, giant crab and Australian sardines found throughout the coastal region. Blue swimmer crabs and western king prawns are important fisheries in the Spencer Gulf area of the region.
Southern bluefin tuna is the single most valuable species in the region and in South Australia's aquaculture industry. Southern bluefin tuna farming is based in the Port Lincoln area. Southern bluefin tuna accounted for 67 per cent ($122 million) of the value of South Australian aquaculture production in 2013–14. Southern bluefin tuna farming is based on growing out wild-caught juveniles as part of the Commonwealth Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery. The Commonwealth Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery had a gross value of production of $39.5 million in 2013–14.
Oyster farming is another important aquaculture industry in the region located in oceanic bays from Ceduna in the far west of the state and in various locations around the Eyre Peninsula (including Smoky Bay, Streaky Bay and Coffin Bay) and Cowell. Abalone farming operates in the Eyre Peninsula, including the areas of Port Lincoln and Streaky Bay. Mussel farming also occurs in the Port Lincoln area. Some other aquaculture species produced in the region include yellowtail kingfish and snapper in the Spencer Gulf at Arno Bay, Franklin Harbour, Fitzgerald Bay and the coast around Port Lincoln which includes Boston Bay and Tumby Bay. There is some barramundi farming in the south east of the region.
In 2015–16 the gross value of South Australia's fisheries production was around $517 million, an increase of 10 per cent ($48 million) from 2014–15. South Australia contributed 17 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2015–16. In value terms, the wild–catch sector accounted for 51 per cent ($265 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 49 per cent ($252 million).
South Australia's wild–catch fisheries sector is dominated by four main products — Southern rock lobster, prawns, Australian sardines and abalone — which account for 52 per cent, 17 per cent, 10 per cent and 8 per cent respectively of the total value of wild-caught production in 2014–15. Over the last decade the real value of South Australia's wild-caught fisheries products has increased by 7 per cent to $265 million (2015–16). The product for which the real value of production increased most over the past decade are wild-caught rock lobster, increasing by $34 million. A large proportion of abalone is exported, mostly to Hong Kong, China and Japan. Exchange rate movements have a significant effect on the value of abalone exports and, in turn, production. Prawns are mostly sold in the domestic market, where competition from imports has placed significant downward pressure on prices in recent years.
Most Australian sardine production is used as a high quality feed in tuna ranching operations located off Port Lincoln in South Australia. A small portion also goes toward human consumption, the recreational fishing bait market and premium brands of pet food.
In 2015–16 the value of South Australia's aquaculture production is estimated to have increased by 11 per cent from $227 million in 2014–15 to $252 million in 2015–16. Southern bluefin tuna is the single most valuable species in the region and South Australia's aquaculture industry, and is ranched by the Commonwealth Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery for fattening in sea cages at Port Lincoln. Southern bluefin tuna accounted for 50 per cent (127 million) of the value of South Australian aquaculture production, followed by oysters (12 per cent; $31 million) and abalone (6 per cent; $15 million).
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 (supplies gummy shark or flake to Melbourne) of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery 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 2014–15, South Australia's fisheries product exports were valued at $250 million. The main export products include tuna, Southern rock lobster and abalone. Japan and Vietnam are the major destinations for South Australian fisheries exports, accounting for 49 per cent and 23per cent of the total value of exports in 2015–16, respectively. Other major export destinations include Hong Kong (13 per cent), China (3 per cent) and Singapore (2 per cent).
Recreational fishing is popular in South Australia with an estimated 277,027 South Australians (5 years and over) participating in the activity in the 12 months prior to November 2013. In its survey of recreational fishers in South Australia found that most fishing effort is directed to Spencer Gulf (37 per cent), the Gulf St. Vincent and Kangaroo Island waters (28 per cent), followed by West Coast (16 per cent) and the South East waters (6 per cent). Most (87 per cent) fishing effort occurred in marine waters, including estuaries, and inshore and offshore waters. The remaining 13 per cent 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 Australian salmon, blue swimmer crab, King George whiting, mulloway, snapper, southern calamari, southern garfish, southern rock lobster and pipi.
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.
PIRSA 2010, South Australian recreational fishing guide 2009, Department of Primary Industries and Resources South Australia, Adelaide.