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About my region – Western 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 the Western Australia and the recent Western Australia financial performance of the broadacre, dairy and vegetable industries.

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Regional overview

Western Australia covers a total area of around 2,529,875 square kilometres and is home to approximately 2,559,000 people (ABS 2017).

Agricultural land in Western Australia occupies 1,064,736 square kilometres, or around 42.09 per cent of the state. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 1,395,170 square kilometres, or 55 per cent of the state. The most common land use by area is minimal use, which occupies 926,000 square kilometres or 37 per cent of the state, followed by grazing of native vegetation, occupying 896,500 square kilometres or 36 per cent of the state.

Broad land use in Western Australia
Shows a map of broad land use in Western 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 2017

Employment

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the November 2017 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 1.3 million people were employed in the state of Western Australia.

Health care and social assistance was the largest employment sector with 159,700 people, followed by construction with 138,900 people, and retail trade with 128,500 people. Other important employment sectors in the region were education and training; accommodation and food services; and professional, scientific and technical services. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 38,600 people, representing 3 per cent of the state's workforce.

Employment profile, Western Australia, November 2017
Shows the number of people employed in the Wheat Belt 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 Western Australia was $8.2 billion, which was 15 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia ($56 billion).

The most important commodities in Western Australia based on the gross value of agricultural production were wheat ($2.5 billion), followed by cattle and calves ($857 million) and barley ($825 million). These commodities together contributed 51 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the state.

Value of agricultural production, Western Australian, 2015–16
Shows the gross value of agricultural production in Western Australia 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 2015–16 there were 8,259 farms in the Western Australia with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $40,000 or more. The state contains 10 per cent of all farm businesses in Australia.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Western Australia, 2015–16
Industry classificationWestern AustraliaAustralia
Number of farms% of StateNumber of farmsContribution of WA
to Australian total
%
Other Grain Growing2,30227.910,49621.9
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming1,53818.68,50718.1
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)1,18014.322,6085.2
Sheep Farming (Specialised)1,14913.99,63211.9
Grape Growing3213.93,09710.4
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)3183.82,74211.6
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming2533.15,0695.0
Dairy Cattle Farming2002.46,6093.0
Horse Farming1511.81,8878.0
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing1371.71,9367.1
Stone Fruit Growing911.157515.8
Other6207.511,3565.5
Total agriculture 8,259 100 84,515 9.8

Note: Estimated value of agricultural operations $40,000 or more. Industries that constitute less than 1 per cent of the region's industry are not shown.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Other grain growing farms (2,302 farms) were the most common, accounting for 28 per cent of all farms in Western 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 22 per cent of farms in Western Australia had an EVAO between $50,000 and $150,000. These farms accounted for only 2 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2015–16. In comparison, 30 per cent of farms in the state had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 74 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in Western Australia in 2015–16.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Western Australia, 2015–16
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in Western Australia. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Note: Only farms with an EVAO of $50,000 or more in 2015–16 are included in these data. The scope of ABS Rural Environment and Agricultural Collections changed in 2015–16 to include only agricultural businesses with an EVAO of $40,000 or greater.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017

Farm financial performance

Estimates of financial performance are available for all broadacre, dairy, and vegetable farms in Western Australia.

Fisheries sector

In 2014–15, the gross value of Western Australian fisheries production (both aquaculture and wild–catch) was $569.6 million, an increase of 16 per cent ($79.4 million) from 2013–14. Western Australia accounted for 21 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2014–15. In value terms, the wild–catch sector accounted for around 86 per cent ($488.4 million) of the state's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 14 per cent ($81.2 million).

Western Australia's wild–catch sector is dominated by the production of western rock lobster, which accounted for around 79 per cent of the state's total wild–catch production in 2014–15. Other major wild–catch seafood products include prawns (8 per cent) and abalone (2 per cent). Over the past decade the real value of Western Australian wild–caught fisheries is estimated to have declined by 10 per cent. The decline in value was mostly driven by a 50 per cent decline in total production volume.

The product for which the real value of production declined most over the past decade is scallops, falling by 90 per cent to $3 million in 2014–15. This was the result of a 94 per cent reduction in the volume caught. A large proportion of rock lobster production is exported, mostly to Hong Kong. Exchange rate movements have a significant effect on the value of rocklobster exports and, in turn, production.

Prawns also account for a significant proportion of Western Australian wild–catch production, accounting for an estimated 15 per cent and 8 per cent of the total volume and value, respectively, of wild–catch production in 2014–15. The value of prawn production increased by 4 per cent to $37.3 million in 2014–15. This mostly reflects a 2 per cent increase in average unit prices.

The real value of Western Australian aquaculture has declined over the past decade by 52 per cent to $81.2 million in 2014–15. Most of the decline can be attributed to a reduction in the value of pearl oyster production.

The value of aquaculture production in 2014–15 increased by 11 per cent ($7.9 million) to $81.2 million. This increase was mainly the result of a $7.1 million rise (12 per cent) in the value of pearl production. Pearls are the most valuable aquaculture product in the state and contributed around 84 per cent ($67.9 million) of aquaculture production value in 2014–15. The edible seafood component of Western Australia's aquaculture sector accounted for 16 per cent ($12.8 million) of total aquaculture production value in 2014–15.

In 2014–15, Western Australia's seafood product exports were valued at $486 million, representing a 24 per cent increase in value compared with 2013–14. The main export seafood product is western rock lobster, which accounted for 91 per cent of the state's exports of seafood in 2014–15. Other major export seafood products include prawns (3 per cent) and abalone (3 per cent).

Vietnam and Hong Kong are the major destination for Western Australian seafood exports, accounting for around 75 per cent and 13 per cent of the total value of exports in 2014–15 respectively. Other major export destinations include Japan (4 per cent) and the United States (3 per cent).

Recreational fishing is a popular activity in Western Australia, with an estimated 643,000 people fishing recreationally in the state (Government of Western Australia 2013). Most of the activity is in Perth and the surrounding area. Recreational fishing makes a significant contribution to the state economy and attracts thousands of visitors to regional Western Australia each year (Government of Western Australia 2013). There is also a large charter boat sector providing recreational fishing experiences to local, interstate and international tourists.

Forestry sector

In 2015–16, the total plantation area in Western Australia was 383,400 hectares, comprised of 276,400 hectares of hardwood plantations, 98,400 hectares of softwood plantations and 8,500 hectares of other plantations. The main hardwood species planted is blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and the main softwood species planted are maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) and radiata pine (Pinus radiata). In 2012, there were an estimated 15,000–23,000 hectares of commercial sandalwood plantations in Australia, mostly in the Outback region of Western Australia.

In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 18.8 million hectares of native forests in Western Australia, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland (6.4 million hectares), Eucalypt mallee woodland (5.6 million hectares), Acacia (3.2 million hectares) and Eucalypt medium open (1.6 million hectares) forest types. There were 6.0 million hectares of native forests on other Crown land, 5.6 million hectares were in leasehold forests, 4.6 million hectares were in nature conservation reserves, 1.3 million hectares were privately owned and 1.3 million hectares were multiple-use forest for wood production. Major timber industries are located at Albany, Bunbury, Dardanup, Dwellingup, Manjimup, Middlesex, Mount Barker, Neerabup and Yarloop.

In 2015–16, the volume of native hardwood logs harvested in Western Australia was 355,000 cubic metres valued at $28 million. The volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 3.7 million cubic metres valued at $262 million. The volume of softwood harvested was 912,000 cubic metres valued at $59 million. These values and volumes include Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Total sales and service income in the Western Australia forest and wood product industry was estimated at $1.5 billion in 2015–16. The income generated from the sale of wood products was $1.1 billion and the income generated from the sale of paper and paper products was $343 million.

In 2016, Western Australia's forestry sector employed 3,995 workers (0.3 per cent of the total employed workforce in Western Australia) compared with 5,581 (0.5 per cent) in 2011. The number of people employed includes the following categories: forestry, logging, support services, timber wholesaling; and wood, pulp, paper and converted paper product manufacturing.

Areas of native forest, by tenure, Western Australia
Shows the areas of native forest, by tenure in Western Australia. 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.

WA Government 2013, Recreational fishing guide 2013: simpler rules for better fishing (PDF 2.5 MB), Department of Fisheries, Perth.

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Last reviewed:
10 Apr 2018