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 fish​eries 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 877,753 square kilometres or 89 per cent of South Australia's total area and is home to approximately 85,800 people (ABS 2017).

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.

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 ABARES 2016

Employment

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the August 2017 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 39,900 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 14 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 5,400 people followed by retail trade with 4,500 people.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing was the third largest employment sector with 4,500 people, representing 11 per cent of the region's workforce. Other important employment sectors in the region were construction, public administration and safety, and other services.

Employment profile, South Australia – Outback region, August 2017
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 2017

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2015–16, the gross value of agricultural production in the South Australia – Outback region was $956 million, which was 15 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in South Australia ($6.2 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 ($378 million), sheep and lambs ($132 million) and cattle and calves ($122 million). These commodities together contributed 66 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region.

Value of agricultural production, South Australia – 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 1,314 farms in the South Australia – Outback region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more. The region contains 12 per cent of all farm businesses in South Australia.

Number of farms, by industry classification, South Australia – Outback region, 2014–15
Industry classificationOutback region​South Australia
Number of farms% of RegionNumber of farmsContribution of region to state total %
Other Grain Growing 801 61.0 2,935 27.3
Sheep Farming (Specialised) 225 17.1 1,397 16.1
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming 181 13.8 1,207 15.0
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised) 67 5.1 1,505 4.4
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming 30 2.3 626 4.8
Other 10 0.7 3,682 0.3
Total agriculture 1,314 100 11,351 11.6

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. Grain growing farms (801) were the most common, accounting for 61 per cent of all farms in the South Australia – Outback region, and 27 per cent of all grain growing 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 15 per cent of farms in the South Australia – Outback region had an EVAO of less than $50,000. These farms accounted for only around 1 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 23 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 61 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the South Australia – Outback region in 2014–15.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, South Australia – Outback region, 2014–15
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.
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

The Outback region of South Australia contains a significant seafood industry, including both wild–catch and aquaculture sectors. Port Lincoln and the surrounding local government area have the highest percentage of employment in the fishing and aquaculture sector. King George whiting and snapper are important endemic species for recreational, commercial and charter fishers in the region and South Australia more broadly. Other popular wild–catch species include abalone, southern rocklobster, giant crab and Australian sardines found throughout the coastal region. Blue swimmer crabs and western king prawns are important fisheries in the Spencer Gulf area of the 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. Southern bluefin tuna accounted for 67 per cent ($122 million) of the value of South Australian aquaculture production in 2013–14. 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 $39.5 million in 2013–14.

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. Abalone farming operates in the Eyre Peninsula, including the areas of Port Lincoln and Streaky Bay. Mussel farming also occurs in the Port Lincoln area. Some other aquaculture species produced in the region include yellowtail kingfish and snapper 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.

In 2014–15 the gross value of South Australia's fisheries production was around $468 million, 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.

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.

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

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Last reviewed:
17 Oct 2017