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About my region – Townsville Queensland

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

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​​​Regional overview

The Townsville region of Queensland is located in the north east of the state. The region comprises the four local government areas of Burdekin, Charters Towers, Hinchinbrook, and Townsville, and the major regional centres of Charters Towers, Townsville, Ayr and Ingham. The region covers a total area of around 80,016 square kilometres, or 4.62 per cent of Queensland's total area, and is home to approximately 235,000 people (ABS 2017).

Agricultural land in the Townsville region occupies 68,184 square kilometres, or 85 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 10,336 square kilometres, or 13 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 61,691 square kilometres or 77 per cent of the Townsville region.

Broad land use in the Townsville region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Townsville 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 104,900 people were employed in the Townsville region. The region accounts for 4 per cent of total employment in Queensland and 3 per cent of all people employed in the Queensland agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 15,700 people, followed by public administration and safety with 12,000 people and retail trade with 11,200 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were accommodation and food services, construction, and education and training. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 1,400 people, representing 1 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Townsville region, August 2017
Shows the number of people employed in the Townsville 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 Townsville region was $995 million, which was 8 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Queensland ($13.2 billion).

The most important commodities in the Townsville region based on the gross value of agricultural production were sugarcane ($543 million), followed by cattle and calves ($291 million) and melons ($35 million). These commodities together contributed 87 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region. The Townsville region accounted for 87 per cent ($4 million) of the total value of Queensland's rice production in 2015–16.

Value of agricultural production, Townsville 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 1,604 farms in the Townsville region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more. The region contains 7 per cent of all farm businesses in Queensland.

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

Sugar Cane Growing

988

61.6

2,983

33.1

Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)

459

28.6

12,172

3.8

Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing

61

3.8

1,076

5.6

Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)

41

2.5

766

5.3

Other

55

3.5

6,038

0.9

Total agriculture

1,604

100

23,035

7.0

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. Sugarcane farms (988 farms) were the most common, accounting for 62 per cent of all farms in the Townsville region, and 33 per cent of all sugarcane 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 12 per cent of farms in the Townsville 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, 24 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $500,000 and accounted for an estimated 66 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Townsville region in 2014–15.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Townsville region, 2014–15
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Townsville 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

Townsville is one of the main commercial fishing ports in Queensland. The East Coast Trawl Fishery is the largest of Queensland's commercial fisheries operating in the region targeting mostly prawns (tiger, red–spot king, endeavour and banana), and also harvesting bugs and squid. Other key commercial species for Queensland fisheries in the region include mackerel, barramundi, threadfin and mud crabs.

The Townsville area produced 1,707.7 tonnes of aquaculture production in 2014–15 utilising 131.8 hectares of ponds. The aquaculture industry in the area employed approximately 62.8 persons in 2014–15 (Heidenreich 2015). Aquaculture species produced in the Townsville area include barramundi, red claw crayfish, and prawns.

The proportion of residents in the Townsville region that fish at least once each year is 20 per cent, higher than the Queensland average of 17 per cent (Taylor et. al. 2012). Residents of the region mainly fish in coastal waters and adjacent reefs within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park near Townsville and Cairns, and the estuaries and freshwater reaches of the central coast catchment. In terms of numbers, the most common species caught in this region is the mud crab. Finfish such as bream, mangrove jack and barramundi are caught in the rivers and coral trout, trevally and tropical snapper are targeted by inshore boat fishers. This region is a popular destination for fishers travelling from other regions of Queensland and other states.

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.

Forestry sector

In 2010–11, the most recent year for which regional data are available, the total plantation area in the Townsville region was approximately 7,300 hectares. The main softwood species planted is Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea).

In 2011, there were approximately 4.3 million hectares of native forests in the Townsville region, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland (3.0 million hectares), Acacia (342,500 hectares), Eucalypt low woodland (233,700 hectares), Eucalypt medium open (217,100 hectares) and Rainforest (184,200 hectares) forest types. Approximately 3.4 million hectares of the native forests are leasehold forests, 452,100 hectares are privately owned, 289,900 hectares are in nature conservation reserves and 32,500 hectares are multiple-use public forest available for timber production. Major timber processing industries are located in Townsville and Ayr.

In 2013–14, the total plantation area in Queensland was approximately 233,500 hectares, comprised of approximately 41,600 hectares of hardwood plantations, 189,400 hectares of softwood plantations and 2,500 hectares of other plantations. The main hardwood species planted are Dunn's white gum (Eucalyptus dunnii), lemon–scented gum (Corymbia citriodora), shining gum (Eucalyptus nitens) and teak (Tectona grandis). The main softwood species planted are Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea), hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and pine hybrids.

In 2014–15, the volume of native hardwood logs harvested was 259,000 cubic metres valued at $38 million. The volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 41,000 cubic metres valued at $2 million. The volume of softwood harvested, including native cypress pines, was 1.8 million cubic metres valued at $141 million.

Queensland's forest and wood product industry generated approximately $3 billion of sales and service income in 2013–14. The income was generated from the sale of wood products, such as structural wood and woodchips, estimated at approximately $2 billion. The remaining $1 billion was generated from the sale of paper and paper products.

In 2011, Queensland's forestry sector employed 12,845 workers (0.6 per cent of the total employed workforce) compared with 16,411 (0.9 per cent) in 2006. The number of people employed includes forestry support services and timber wholesaling.

Areas of native forest, by tenure, Townsville region
Shows the areas of native forest, by tenure in the Townsville region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.

Source: ABARES Australia's State of the Forests Report 2013

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 KB), 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