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.

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Regional overview

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).

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

Employment

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the May 2020 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 39,200 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 11 per cent of all people employed in the South Australian agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 4,900 people, followed by mining with 3,900 people and education and training with 3,700 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were agriculture, forestry and fishing; construction; and retail trade. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 3,500 people, representing 9 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, South Australia – Outback region, May 2020
Shows the number of people employed in the South Australia 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 South Australia – Outback region was $1.1 billion, which was 16 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in South Australia ($6.8 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 ($451 million), barley ($142 million) and wool ($135 million). These commodities together contributed 67 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region.

Value of agricultural production, South Australia – Outback 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 1,142 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.

Number of farms, by industry classification, South Australia – Outback region, 2017–18
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
Other           10 0.9      2,761 0.4
Total agriculture     1,142 100      9,010 12.7

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.

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

Fisheries sector

The Outback region of South Australia contains a significant seafood industry, including both wild-catch and aquaculture sectors. In 2018–19, 9,456 tonnes of Commonwealth catch was landed in the region, predominantly in Port Lincoln from the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery and Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector. This catch includes 5,291 tonnes of Bluefin Tuna, 1,035 tonnes of Deepwater Flathead, 430 tonnes of Bight Redfish and 328 tonnes of Gummy Shark. Several state wild-catch fisheries are also active in the area, most notably the Southern Australian Commercial Abalone Fishery, from which 65% of the harvest is sourced from the West Coast, the Mud Cockle Fishery, from which greater than 50% of the catch is harvested from Cockle Bay, and the King George Whiting Fishery to which the West Coast contributes one third to one half of the catch annually (PIRSA 2015). Other popular wild-catch species include Abalone, Southern Rock Lobster, Giant Crab, Blue Swimmer Crab, Western King Prawns and Australian Sardines found throughout the coastal 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 and has a direct industry output in the Eyre Peninsula region of $140.6 million and a flow-on output in other sectors (trade, Sardines, manufacturing, etc.) of a further $119.1 million. Two-hundred and sixty-four people are directly employed by the industry, with flow-on business activities generating a further 818 full-time jobs (BDO EconSearch 2019). 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 $39.73 million in 2017–18.

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. In 2017–18, 2,141 tonnes of Oysters, with a value of $19.8 million, were produced along the west coast and in the Eyre Peninsula region. Abalone farming also operates in the region, producing 243 tonnes ($7.5 million), as does Mussel farming (1,833 tonnes; $4 million) (BDO EconSearch 2019). Some other aquaculture species produced in the region include Yellowtail Kingfish and Breams 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.

Recreational fishing is also popular in the region with 35% of residents in the Eyre area and 24% of residents in the Northern area fishing in the 12 months prior to November 2013. The Eyre region had the highest participation rate in the state. When considering fishing effort, 16.1% was dedicated to the west coast, and a further 36.5% to Spencer Gulf, off the east coast of the region. Species commonly caught by recreational fishers include King George Whiting, Breams, Southern Garfish, Mulloway and Australian Salmon (Giri & Hall 2015). 

South Australia state data

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.

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.

BDO EconSearch 2019, The Economic Contribution of Aquaculture in the South Australian State and Regional Economies, 2017/18 – A Report to Primary Industries and Regions South Australia Fisheries and Aquaculture (PDF1.4 MB), Adelaide, SA.

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.

PIRSA 2015, Status of South Australian Fisheries Report (PDF 3.3 MB), South Australian Fisheries Management Series, Paper number 69. Primary Industries and Regions SA, Adelaide.

Last reviewed: 28 July 2020
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