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 Tasmania and the recent financial performance of the Tasmanian broadacre, dairy and vegetable industries.
Tasmania covers an area of around 68,401 square kilometres and is home to approximately 495,354 people (ABS 2011). Agricultural land in Tasmania occupies 18,900 square kilometres, or around 28 per cent, mostly in the north and east of the state. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 32,650 square kilometres, or 48.5 per cent of the state. The most common land use by area is nature conservation, which occupies 19,400 square kilometres or 29 per cent, mostly in the west and south–west of the state.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the May 2017 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 240,300 people were employed in Tasmania.
Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 34,300 people, followed by retail trade with 26,100 people and construction with 21,800 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were accommodation and food services, education and training, and public administration and safety. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 13,000 people, representing 5 per cent of the state's workforce.
Value of agricultural production
In 2015–16, the gross value of agricultural production in Tasmania was $1.5 billion, which was about 3 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia ($56 billion).
The most important individual commodities in Tasmania based on the gross value of agricultural production were milk ($386 million), followed by cattle and calves ($314 million) and wool ($95 million). These commodities together contributed 54 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the state.
Number and type of farms
ABS data indicate that in 2014–15 there were 3 156 farms in Tasmania with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more. The state contains about 3 per cent of all farm businesses in Australia.
Number of farms, by industry classification, Tasmania, 2014–15
|Number of farms||% of Region||Number of farms||Contribution of Tas to Australian total %|
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)
Dairy Cattle Farming
Sheep Farming (Specialised)
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming
Other Grain Growing
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 table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (1,197 farms) were the most common, accounting for 38 per cent of all farms in Tasmania.
Estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) is a measure of the value of production from farms and a measure of their business size. Around 48 per cent of farms in Tasmania had an EVAO of less than $50,000. These farms accounted for only 3 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 15 per cent of farms in the state had an EVAO of more than $500 000 and accounted for an estimated 73 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in Tasmania in 2014–15.
Farm financial performance
Estimates of financial performance are available for all broadacre, beef, sheep, dairy and vegetable farms in Tasmania.
Tasmania has a range of wild–catch finfish, crustacean, mollusc and aquaculture fisheries production. Hobart is the main fishing port in Tasmania servicing fishers across a range of commercial fishing activities. The Greater Hobart region is also renowned for its significant Atlantic salmon aquaculture sector. In the region, the Derwent River, Frederick Henry Bay and Norfolk Bay estuaries are popular sites for both recreational and commercial fishing. The rest of Tasmania is predominantly a wild–catch production area for shellfish, in particular Southern rock lobster, abalone and scallop, and finfish occurring mostly along the south west coast of Tasmania and at King Island. The Tasmanian greenlip abalone population is abundant along the north coast and around the Bass Strait islands. King Island is a large centre for giant crab production. Georges Bay and Ansons Bay are key shellfish producing areas, including cockles, clams and some aquaculture oysters. The ports of Bridport and St. Helens are important landing sites for scallop fishers operating in both Commonwealth and Tasmanian fisheries. Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout aquaculture also occurs in Macquarie Harbour.
In 2014–15 the gross value of Tasmanian fisheries production is estimated to be around $825 million, an increase of 12 per cent ($89 million) from 2013–14. Tasmania contributed 30 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2014–15. In value terms, the wild–catch sector accounted for 21 per cent ($175.3 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 79 per cent ($650 million).
Tasmania's wild–catch fisheries sector is dominated by two main products, abalone and southern rock lobster, which account for 46 per cent and 51 per cent, respectively, of the total value of wild-caught production in 2014–15. Over the past decade the real value of Tasmania's wild–caught fisheries products has reduced by 19 per cent to $175.3 million 2014–15. The decline in value was driven by 61 per cent decline in the total volume of wild–catch fisheries products.
The product for which the real value of production declined most over the past decade is abalone (both wild–caught and aquaculture), falling by 43 per cent to $80 million in 2014–15. This was the result of a 29 per cent reduction in volume. 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.
Southern rock lobster accounts for a significant proportion of Tasmanian wild–catch production, accounting for 25 per cent and 51 per cent of the total volume and value, respectively, of wild–catch production in 2014–15. The value of Southern rock lobster exports increased by 7 per cent in 2014–15, primarily reflecting a 14 per cent increase in the export unit price from Tasmania.
Commonwealth fisheries active in the Tasmania region include the Commonwealth Trawl Sector (main source of domestic fresh fish for Sydney and Melbourne markets) and the Shark Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sector (supplies gummy shark or 'flake' to Melbourne) of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery. The Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery and Small Pelagic Fishery (mostly fishmeal for aquaculture and agriculture) also operate in the waters off Tasmania.
The importance of aquaculture in Tasmanian fisheries production increased over the past decade. Over the past decade the real value of aquaculture production tripled reaching $559 million in 2013–14, representing around 76 per cent of the state's fisheries production. Most of the growth in aquaculture production is attributed to increases in the output of farmed salmonid species, in particular Atlantic salmon.
In 2013–14, the total plantation area in Tasmania was approximately 310,700 hectares, comprised of approximately 235,600 hectares of hardwood plantations and 75,100 hectares of softwood plantations. The main hardwood species planted are blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and shining gum (Eucalyptus nitens), and the main softwood species planted is radiata pine (Pinus radiata).
There were approximately 3.4 million hectares of native forests in Tasmania in 2011 (the most recent data available), comprised mainly of eucalypt medium woodland (approximately 1.1 million hectares), eucalypt tall open (829,000 hectares), rainforest (708,400 hectares), and eucalypt tall woodland (261,600 hectares) forest types. Approximately 1.2 million hectares of native forests are in nature conservation reserves, while 875,300 hectares are privately managed and 923,200 hectares are multiple–use public forest available for timber production.
In 2016 Tasmania's wood processing industries comprised sawmills utilising native hardwood and plantation softwood logs, hardwood veneer, pulp and paper manufacturing, and log and woodchip export facilities. These mills are located throughout Tasmania. The major timber processing centres include Bell Bay, Boyer, Launceston, and Smithton. The principal ports exporting forest products are located at Bell Bay, Burnie, and Hobart.
In 2014–15, the volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 1.3 million cubic metres valued at $95 million. The volume of native hardwood logs harvested was 1.1 million cubic metres valued at $73 million. The volume of softwood harvested was 1.1 million cubic metres valued at $63 million.
Sales and service income in the Tasmanian wood product industry was estimated at approximately $335 million in 2013–14.
In 2011, the Tasmanian forestry sector employed 3 526 workers (1.7 per cent of the total employed workforce in Tasmania) compared with 5 390 (2.7 per cent) in 2006. The number of people employed includes forestry support services and timber wholesaling.
Census of Population and Housing, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.