Expand links In this section

About my region – Northern Territory

​​​​​​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 Northern Territory and the recent financial performance of the Northern Territory beef industry.

[expand all]

Regional overview

The Northern Territory covers a total area of around 1,349,129 square kilometres and is home to approximately 245,700 people (ABS 2017). Agricultural land in the Northern Territory occupies 615,028 square kilometres, or around 46 per cent of the state. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 716,626 square kilometres, or 53 per cent of the state. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 611,600 square kilometres or 45 per cent of the state.

Broad land use in the Northern Territory
Shows a map of broad land use in the Northern Territory. 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 ABARES 2017


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the May 2018 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 137,400 people were employed in the Northern Territory.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 21,000 people, followed by public administration and safety with 18,600 people, and construction with 14,400 people. Other important employment sectors in the territory were education and training; retail trade; and accommodation and food services. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 1,700 people, representing around 1 per cent of the state's workforce.

Employment profile, Northern Territory, May 2018
Shows the number of people employed in the Northern Territory 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 2018​

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2016–17, the gross value of agricultural production in Northern Territory was $610 million, which was 1 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia ($61 billion).

The most important commodities in Northern Territory based on the gross value of agricultural production were cattle and calves ($465 million), followed by mangoes ($40 million) and melons ($36 million). These commodities together contributed 89 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the jurisdiction.

Value of agricultural production, Northern Territory, 2016–17
Shows the gross value of agricultural production in the region in millions of dollars. The figure is discussed in the previous two 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 2018

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2015–16 there were 369 farms in Northern Territory with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The territory contains less than 1 per cent of all farm businesses in Australia.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Northern Territory region, 2015–16
Industry classificationNorthern TerritoryAustralia
Number of farms% of RegionNumber of farmsContribution of NT to Australian total %
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised) 187 50.7 22,608 0.8
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing 84 22.8 1,936 4.4
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors) 48 13.0 2,742 1.8
Other Crop Growing nec15 4.1 1,268 1.2
Other Livestock Farming nec6 1.7 226 2.8
Nursery Production (Outdoors) 6 1.7 614 1.0
Floriculture Production (Outdoors) 4 1.1 315 1.3
Citrus Fruit Growing 4 1.1 813 0.5
Other14 3.7 53,992 0.0
Total agriculture 369 100 84,515 0.4

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. nec Not elsewhere classified.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (187) were the most common, accounting for 51 per cent of all farms in the Northern Territory.

Estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) is a measure of the value of production from farms and a measure of their business size. Around 26 per cent of farms in the Northern Territory had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 2 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2015–16. In comparison, 37 per cent of farms in the territory had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 84 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Northern Territory in 2015–16.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Northern Territory, 2015–16
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Northern Territory. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Note: Only farms with an EVAO of $50,000 or more in 2015–16 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 2017

Farm financial performance

Estimates of financial performance are available for beef farms in the Northern Territory.

Fisheries sector

In 2015–16 the gross value of Northern Territory managed fisheries production (both aquaculture and wild-catch) was $59.4 million, an increase of 8 per cent ($4.2 million) from 2014–15. The Northern Territory contributed 2 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2015–16. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 59 per cent ($35 million) of the territory's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 41 per cent ($24.5 million).

The Northern Territory's wild-catch fisheries sector provides a range of fisheries products. The highest contribution is from mackerel which account for 15 per cent of the total value of wild-catch fisheries with a value of $5.3 million. Other important wild-catch fisheries products are crabs (primarily mud crabs), which account for 9 per cent of the total value of wild-catch fisheries with a value of $3 million, gold band snapper (9 per cent; $3.2 million) and barramundi (7 per cent; $2.6 million). In 2015–16 the value of the Northern Territory's aquaculture production increased by 12 per cent from $31 million in 2014–15 to $35 million in 2015–16.

The Commonwealth managed Northern Prawn Fishery was the most valuable fishery in the Northern Territory, with a gross value of production in 2015–16 of $124 million, across the entire fishery (some of which is landed in Queensland). In 2015–16, the gross value of production for the Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery increased by 16 per cent because of a 17 per cent increase in price. Darwin is a major landing site for this fishery.

In 2015–16, the Northern Territory's seafood product exports were valued at around $0.16 million by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This amount will not include Northern Territory production that is exported from ports elsewhere in Australia. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen fish, and crabs, with Japan and China being the main export markets. The main non-edible fisheries product produced for the export market in the Northern Territory was pearls.

Recreational fishing is popular in the Northern Territory with an estimated 31,790 non-indigenous Northern Territory residents (5 years and over) participating in the activity in the 12 months prior to April 2009 (Henry, GW & Lyle JM 2003). In its survey of recreational fishers in Northern Territory found that most fishing effort is directed to Darwin Harbour (27 per cent), Darwin Surrounds and Bynoe/Finniss Area (28 per cent) and the Mary/Alligator Rivers (17 per cent). Most (80 per cent) fishing effort occurred in marine waters, including estuaries, and inshore and offshore waters.

It is estimated that Northern Territory residents and visitors spend nearly $51 million annually on recreational fishing, with the purchase of vessels and vehicles and their associated running costs making up the bulk of the expenditure (West et al 2012). According to the most recent survey of recreational fishing activity in the Northern Territory (West et al 2012), the main target fish species are barramundi, followed by golden snapper, small bait fish, catfish, saddletail and crimson snapper, and mullet. Mud crabs dominate the crustacean catch, followed by cherabin, the giant freshwater prawn.

The Northern Territory also has a significant indigenous customary fish sector. The 2000–01 National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey (NRIFS) aimed to better understand the level of fishing undertaken by the Indigenous fishing sector (Henry & Lyle 2003). The survey collected fisheries catch statistics from Indigenous people aged five years and older, living in coastal communities across the north of Australia, from Broome in Western Australia to Cairns in Queensland (excluding those living in the Torres Strait). The survey showed that an estimated 37,000 Indigenous people living in the north of Australia fished at least once during the survey year. This was equivalent to 92 per cent of the Indigenous population in the region.

The survey indicated that Indigenous fishers in northern Australia harvested approximately 900,000 finfish, 1 million molluscs, 660,000 prawns and yabbies, 180,000 crabs and rock lobsters and smaller numbers of other species during 2000–01. The most prominent finfish species groups were mullet, catfish, tropical snapper, bream and barramundi. The most prominent non–finfish species groups were mussels, freshwater prawn, mud crabs, prawns and oysters.

Forestry sector

In 2015–16, the total plantation area in the Northern Territory was 47,600 hectares, comprised of 45,700 hectares of hardwood plantations and 1,900 hectares of softwood plantations. The main hardwood species planted are mangium (Acacia mangium) and African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis). Plantations in the Northern Territory are predominantly located on Melville and Tiwi Islands and some northern parts of the mainland.

In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 15.2 million hectares of native forests in the Northern Territory, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland (5.8 million hectares), Eucalypt medium open (5.0 million hectares), Acacia (957,600 hectares), Melaleuca (896,000 hectares), Eucalypt low woodland (855,400 hectares), Eucalypt low open (472,800 hectares), Mangrove (333,800 hectares) and Rainforest (259,700 hectares) forest types. There were 9.6 million hectares of native forests privately owned and 5.2 million hectares in leased forests. There are no major timber processing industries in the Northern Territory.

From 2015–16 log harvest volumes and values for the Northern Territory are included in the Western Australian state figures.
Sales and service income in the Northern Territory forest and wood product industry was not reported in 2015–16.

In 2016, the Northern Territory forestry sector employed 282 people (0.3 per cent of the total employed workforce in the Northern Territory) compared with 243 (0.2 per cent) in 2011. The number of people employed includes the following categories: forestry, logging, support services, timber wholesaling; and wood, pulp, paper and converted paper product manufacturing.

Area of native forest, by tenure, Northern Territory
Shows the area of native forest, by tenure in the region in thousand hectares. This figure is discussed in the above paragraph.
Source: ABARES Australia's State of the Forests Report 2013


ABS 2017, Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2016, cat. no. 3235.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 19 September 2017.

Henry, GW & Lyle JM (eds) 2003, The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey. Final report to the Fisheries Research & Development Corporation, NSW Fisheries final report series, no. 48, FRDC project no. 99/158, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra.

West, LD, Lyle, JM, Matthews, SR, Stark, KE & Steffe, AS 2012, Survey of Recreational Fishing in the Northern Territory, 2009–10, Fishery report no. 109, Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, December, Darwin.

Last reviewed:
12 Sep 2018