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About my region – Queensland – Outback

​​​​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 Queensland – Outback region and the recent Queensland financial performance of the broadacre, dairy, vegetable, and sugarcane industries.

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​​​Regional overview

The Queensland – Outback region includes in the west and the far north of the state, and spans from the tip of Cape York to the borders of the Northern Territory and New South Wales. The region comprises 34 local government areas. The region includes the regional centres of Charleville, Longreach and Mount Isa. The region covers a total area of around 1,183,042 square kilometres, or 68 per cent of Queensland's total area, and is home to approximately 82,500 people (ABS 2017).

Agricultural land in the Queensland – Outback region occupies 1,044,290 square kilometres, or 88 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 147,245 square kilometres, or 12 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 965,731 square kilometres or 82 per cent of the Queensland – Outback region.

Broad land use in the Queensland - Outback region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Queensland 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 ABARES 2016

Employment

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the August 2017 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 35,600 people were employed in the Queensland – Outback region. The region accounts for 1 per cent of total employment in Queensland and 4 per cent of all people employed in the Queensland agriculture and fishing sector.

Mining was the largest employment sector with 8,800 people, followed by accommodation and food services with 4,400 people, and health care and social assistance with 3,600 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were public administration and safety, agriculture and fishing, and education and training. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 2,400 people, representing 7 per cent of the region's workforce.​

Employment profile, Queensland - Outback region, August 2017
Shows the number of people employed in the Outback 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 2017

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2015–16, the gross value of agricultural production in the Queensland – Outback region was $2.4 billion, which was 18 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Queensland ($13.2 billion).
The most important commodity in the region based on the gross value of agricultural production was cattle and calves ($2.1 billion) which contributed 88 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region. Other important commodities in the region were mangoes ($42 million) followed by sheep and lambs ($33 million).

Value of agricultural production, Queensland - Outback region, 2015–16
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 2017

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2014–15 there were 1,944 farms in the Queensland - Outback region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more. The region contains 8 per cent of all farm businesses in Queensland.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Queensland - Outback region, 2014–15
Industry classificationQueensland - Outback​Queensland
Number of farms% of RegionNumber of farmsContribution of region to state total %

Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming

155

8.0

235

65.9

Sheep Farming (Specialised)

116

6.0

242

47.9

Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing

106

5.5

1,076

9.9

Other Grain Growing

31

1.6

1,355

2.3

Beef Cattle Feedlots (Specialised)

29

1.5

140

20.7

Other

96

4.9

7,814

1.2

Total agriculture

1,944

100

23,035

8.4

Note: Estimated value of agricultural operations $5,000 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 2016

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (1,411 farms) were the most common, accounting for 73 per cent of all farms in the Queensland – Outback region, and 12 per cent of all beef 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 19 per cent of farms in the Queensland – Outback region had an EVAO of less than $50,000. These farms accounted for about 1 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 30 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $500,000 and accounted for an estimated 80 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Queensland – Outback region in 2014–15.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Queensland - Outback region, 2014–15
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Outback region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016

Farm financial performance

Estimates of financial performance are available for all broadacre, beef, sheep, grains, diary, vegetable, and sugarcane farms in Queensland.

Fisheries sector

The coastal areas of this region include the Queensland coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, the coastal areas of Cape York and the Torres Strait. This region is an important area for the wild harvest of prawns. The East Coast Trawl Fishery, which is the largest of Queensland's commercial fisheries, operates in the region extending from the Cape York along the east coast south to the border with New South Wales. The fishery targets mostly prawns, but also harvests bugs, squid, scallops and other species. The main fishery in the Gulf of Carpentaria is the Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery, the most valuable single gear fishery managed by the Commonwealth ($115.2 million in 2013–14), which extends across Northern Australia. This fishery targets tiger and banana prawns in the Torres Strait, one of the most valuable commercial fisheries is the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery, that targets mostly endeavour and tiger prawns. Karumba is a key fishing port in the region.

Fisheries in the Torres Strait area are managed under the 1985 Torres Strait Treaty between Australian and Papua New Guinea. Marine resources are a staple in the diet of Torres Strait Islanders, as well as being central to traditional island culture and a primary source of income. In terms of commercial fisheries, the tropical rocklobster fishery is the most valuable ($20.9 million in 2013–14) and other fisheries include spanish mackerel, coral trout, barramundi, trochus and sea cucumber. The region is also important for pearl production, both farming and wild–catch (The Queensland East Coast Pearl Fishery and Torres Strait pearl shell fishery).

In 2013–14, the Far North (comprising both Outback Queensland and Cairns regions) area produced 2,804 tonnes of aquaculture production, utilising 409.1 hectares of ponds. The aquaculture industry in the area employed approximately 151.1 persons in 2013–14 (Heidenreich 2014). Aquaculture species produced in the Far North area include barramundi, jade perch, prawns and pearls.

The outback region of Queensland is sparsely populated but has a high participation rate for recreational fishing amongst its residents at 23 per cent, significantly higher than the state average of 17 per cent (Taylor et al. 2012). The Murray-Darling Rivers catchment is the most heavily fished by residents of the outback region but also by Darling Downs and Brisbane residents. The western Queensland and Gulf Country rivers are also fished by residents. The Gulf Country is a popular destination for fishers living in other Queensland regions as well as fishing tourists from New South Wales and Victoria. In the freshwater rivers and dams the catch consists of mainly golden perch and yabbies. In the Gulf Country and Cape York, barramundi is the main species caught by fishers although most fish are released. Threadfin salmon, mud crab, catfish and sooty grunter are also common in the recreational catch from the Gulf Country. On the east coast of Cape York, bream, whiting, tropical snapper and coral trout are the dominant species in the recreational catch.

In 2014–15 the total gross value of Queensland's fisheries production was $291.1 million, an increase of 4 per cent ($10.8 million) from 2013-14. Queensland contributed 11 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2014–15. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 61 per cent ($177.1 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 39 per cent ($114.1 million).

Queensland's wild-catch fisheries sector provides a range of fisheries products. The highest contribution being from prawns, which account for 35 per cent of the total value of wild-catch fisheries production with a value of $62.8 million, followed by crabs (17 per cent; $29.5 million) and coral trout (14 per cent; $24.6 million). Over the last decade the real value of Queensland's wild-caught fisheries products has reduced by 32 per cent. Prawns and shark, showed the largest decline in the value of production over the past decade, reducing by 41 per cent and 86 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 28 per cent in 2014–15 to $114.1 million. Prawn and barramundi farming account for the largest share of production by value, with prawns accounting for 71 per cent, and $81.2 million of production, followed by barramundi (24 per cent; $27.5 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. The final proposed Commonwealth Coral Sea Marine Reserves network released on 14 June 2012 is estimated to displace $4.0 million of gross value of production from these fisheries when the zoning comes into effect.

In 2014–15, Queensland's fisheries product exports were valued at $160 million. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen fish, prawns and rocklobster. Hong Kong, Japan and the United States are the major destinations for Queensland fisheries exports, accounting for 48 per cent, 13 per cent and 9 per cent of the total value of exports in 2013–14, respectively. Other major export destinations include Vietnam (9 per cent), Malaysia (3 per cent) and Taiwan (3 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 (QDAFF 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.

References

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

DEEDI 2009, Prospects for Queensland's primary industries 2009–10, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Brisbane, Queensland.

Heidenreich M 2015, Ross Lobegeiger report to farmers: Aquaculture production summary for Queensland 2014–15 (pdf 883.06kb), Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland.

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.​

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Last reviewed:
17 Oct 2017