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About my region –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, fisheries, and forestry sectors in South Australia and the recent financial performance of the South Australian broadacre, dairy, and vegetable industries.

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​​​Regional overview

South Australia covers a total area of around 983,482 square kilometres and is home to approximately 1,713,100  people (ABS 2017). Agricultural land in South Australia occupies 522,343 square kilometres, or about 53 per cent of the state. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 417,650 square kilometres, or 42.5 per cent of the state. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 410,100 square kilometres or 42 per cent of the state.

Broad land use in South Australia
Shows a map of broad land use in South Australia. 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


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the August 2017 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 821,800 people were employed in South Australia.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 126,000 people, followed by retail trade with 89,700 people, and manufacturing with 76,900 people. Other important employment sectors in the state were construction, education and training, and public administration and safety. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 32,400 people, representing around 4 per cent of the state's workforce.

Employment profile, South Australia, August 2017
Shows the number of people employed in South Australia 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 South Australia was $6.2 billion, which was 11 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia ($56 billion).

The most important commodities in South Australia based on the gross value of agricultural production were wheat ($927 million), followed by cattle and calves ($683 million) and fruit and nuts (excluding grapes) ($550 million). These commodities together contributed 35 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the state.

Value of agricultural production, South Australia, 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 11,351 farms in South Australia with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more. The state contains 10 per cent of all farm businesses in Australia.

Number of farms, by industry classification, South Australia, 2014–15
Industry classificationSouth Australia region​Australia
Number of farms% of RegionNumber of farmsContribution of SA to Australian total %
Other Grain Growing2,93525.938,0437.7
Grape Growing 1,83016.114,90712.3
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)1,50513.39,57515.7
Sheep Farming (Specialised)1,39712.38,37416.7
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming1,20710.67,33016.5
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming6265.55,82010.8
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)3182.84,2947.4
Dairy Cattle Farming3022.73,4028.9
Vegetable Growing (Under Cover)1571.43,2304.9
Horse Farming1411.23,1974.4
Citrus Fruit Growing1401.22,5965.4
Other 7947.09,2998.5
Total agriculture 11,351 100 110,068 10.3

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
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. Other grain growing farms (2,935) were the most common, accounting for about 26 per cent of all 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 33 per cent of farms in South Australia had an EVAO of less than $50,000. These farms accounted for only 2 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 22 per cent of farms in the state had an EVAO of more than $500,000 and accounted for an estimated 76 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in South Australia in 2014–15.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, South Australia, 2014–15
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the South Australia 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, dairy and vegetable farms in South Australia.

Fisheries sector

In 2014–15 the gross value of South Australia's fisheries production was around $468million, an increase of 19 per cent ($76 million) from 2013–14. South Australia contributed 17 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2014–15. In value terms, the wild–catch sector accounted for 51 per cent ($240 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 49 per cent ($227 million).

South Australia's wild–catch fisheries sector is dominated by four main products—Southern rocklobster, prawns, abalone and Australian sardines—which account for 52 per cent, 15 per cent, 11 per cent and 9 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 1 per cent to $240 million (2014–15). The product for which the real value of production increased most over the past decade are wild-caught rocklobster, increasing by $38 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 2014–15 the value of South Australia's aquaculture production is estimated to have increased by 25 per cent from $181 million in 2013–14 to $227 million in 2014–15. 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 57 per cent (131 million) of the value of South Australian aquaculture production, followed by oysters (12 per cent; $28 million) and abalone (5 per cent; $11 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 $244 million. The main export products include tuna, Southern rocklobster and abalone. Japan and Vietnam are the major destinations for South Australian fisheries exports, accounting for 52 per cent and 28 per cent of the total value of exports in 2014–15, respectively. Other major export destinations include Hong Kong (12 per cent) and Singapore (2 per cent).

Recreational fishing is popular in South Australia with an estimated 236,000 South Australians (5 years and over) participating in the activity in the 12 months prior to October 2007 [2]. In its survey of recreational fishers in South Australia PIRSA (2010) found that most fishing effort is directed to the Gulf St. Vincent and Kangaroo Island waters (42 per cent), followed by Spencer Gulf (27 per cent), West Coast (11 per cent) and the South East waters (7 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 King George whiting, snapper, southern garfish, southern calamari, blue swimmer crab, southern rocklobster, mulloway, blacklip and greenlip abalone, pipi, golden perch and murray cod.

Forestry sector

In 2013–14, the total plantation area in South Australia was approximately 188,500 hectares, comprised of approximately 59,700 hectares of hardwood plantations, 128,500 hectares of softwood plantations and 300 hectares of other plantations. The main hardwood species planted is blue gum (Eucalyptus.globulus), and the main softwood species planted is radiata pine (Pinus radiata).

In 2011, there were approximately 4.4 million hectares of native forests in South Australia, comprised mainly of Eucalypt mallee woodland (approximately 3.5 million hectares), Eucalypt medium open (205,300 hectares) and Eucalypt medium woodland (193,000 hectares) forest types. Approximately 1.5 million hectares of the native forests are in nature conservation reserves, 1.5 million hectares are privately owned, and 1.3 million hectares are leasehold forest.

In 2014–15, the volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 862,000 cubic metres valued at $68 million. The volume of softwood harvested was 2.7 million cubic metres valued at $173 million.

Total sales and service income in the South Australian forest and wood product industry was estimated at approximately $1.7 billion in 2013–14. The income generated from the sale of wood products was valued at approximately $879 million while the remaining $811 million was generated from the sale services associated with paper and paper products.

In 2011, South Australia's forestry sector employed 6 498 workers (0.9 per cent of the total employed workforce in South Australia) compared with 7,812 (1.2 per cent) in 2006. The number of people employed includes forestry support services and timber wholesaling.

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

PIRSA 2010, South Australian recreational fishing guide 2009, Department of Primary Industries and Resources South Australia, Adelaide.

Last reviewed:
19 Oct 2017