About my region – Western Australia – Outback

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

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Regional overview

The Western Australia – Outback region incorporates all of Western Australia, excluding the south-west corner of the state. The region comprises 40 local government areas, and includes the regional towns of Broome, Carnarvon, Esperance, Exmouth, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Kununurra and Port Hedland. The region covers a total area of around 2,298,053 square kilometres or 91 per cent of Western Australia's total area and is home to approximately 215,000 people (ABS 2011).

Agricultural land in the Western Australia – Outback region occupies 931,326 square kilometres, or 41 per cent of the region. Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 1,324,120 square kilometres, or 58 per cent of the region. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 888,598 square kilometres or 39 per cent of the Western Australia – Outback region.

Broad land use in the Western Australia - Outback region
Shows a map of broad land use in the Western 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: Land use of Australia 2010–2011 ABARES 2016

Employment

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the February 2017 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 142,800 people were employed in the Western Australia – Outback region. The region accounts for 11 per cent of total employment in Western Australia and 10 per cent of all people employed in the Western Australian agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

Mining was the largest employment sector with 31,900 people, followed by retail trade, and public administration and safety with 13,700 people each. Other important employment sectors in the region were construction, health care and social assistance, and transport, postal and warehousing. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 3,400 people, representing 2 per cent of the region's workforce.

Employment profile, Western Australia - Outback region, February 2017
Shows the number of people employed in the Western Australia - Outback 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 2014–15, the gross value of agricultural production in the Western Australia – Outback region was $1.8 billion, which was 23 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Western Australia ($7.9 billion).

The Western 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 ($712 million), followed by cattle and calves ($405 million) and canola ($243 million). These commodities together contributed 74 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the region.

Value of agricultural production, Western Australia - Outback region, 2014–15
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 2016

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2014–15 there were 1,525 farms in the Western Australia – Outback region with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more. The region contains 15 per cent of all farm businesses in Western Australia.

Number of farms, by industry classification, Western Australia - Outback region, 2014–15

Industry classification

Western Australia - Outback region

Western Australia

Number of farms

% of Region

Number of farms

Contribution of region
to state total
%

Other Grain Growing

713

46.8

3,161

22.6

Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)

265

17.4

2,172

12.2

Sheep Farming (Specialised)

150

9.8

1,145

13.1

Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming

134

8.8

1,007

13.3

Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)

102

6.7

408

25.1

Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing

67

4.4

177

38.0

Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming

33

2.2

285

11.6

Other

59

3.9

1,721

3.4

Total agriculture

1,525

100

10,075

15.1

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

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Grain growing farms (713 farms) were the most common, accounting for 47 per cent of all farms in the Western Australia – Outback region, and 23 per cent of all grain growing 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 19 per cent of farms in the Western Australia – Outback region had an EVAO of less than $50,000. These farms accounted for around 1 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 29 per cent of farms in the region had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 77 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Western Australia – Outback region in 2014–15.

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Western Australia - Outback region, 2014–15
Shows share of farms and share of value of agricultural operations in the Western Australia - Outback region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Farm financial performance

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

Fisheries sector

Western Australia – Outback region covers most of Western Australia, including coastal areas in the south, west and north-west regions of Western Australia. It covers fisheries in all four bioregions, including all of the North Coast and Gascoyne Coast bioregions, around two–thirds of the South Coast bioregion, and a portion of the West Coast bioregion (Fletcher & Santoro 2012). The most valuable fishing activities include tropical finfish in the North Coast bioregion, prawns and scallops in the Gascoyne bioregion, abalone and mussels in the South Coast bioregion and western rocklobster and scallops in the West Coast bioregion. The primary aquaculture activities in the North Coast, Gascoyne Coast and West Coast bioregions are several varieties of pearls and pearl oysters, and barramundi, while aquaculture production in the South Coast bioregion primarily consists of mussels and oysters. Recreational fishing is also a popular activity in the region.

On the south coast Australian herring, silver trevally, whiting and Bight redfish are commonly caught by recreational fishers. In the west coast bioregion western rocklobster is an important target of recreational fishers using lobster pots or divers capturing lobsters by hand. Anglers fishing from the shore catch mullet, tailor, Australian herring and whiting. Offshore boat fishers target snapper, baldchin groper, West Australian dhufish and Spanish mackerel. In the North Coast Bioregion (Pilbara and Kimberley), barramundi, mullet, threadfin salmon, tropical snapper, mud crab and blue swimmer crab are the main species targeted. The North Coast population has the highest participation rates for recreational fishing in Western Australia. In inland areas of the Outback Region, freshwater crustaceans such as yabby, marron and freshwater prawn are important to recreational fishers.

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 rocklobster, 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 rocklobster 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 rocklobster, 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 2010–11, the most recent year for which regional data are available, the plantation area in the Western Australia – Outback region was approximately 62,400 hectares, comprised of approximately 57,000 hectares of hardwood plantations and 5,400 hectares of softwood 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 (P.radiata). In addition, in 2012, there were 15–23,000 hectares of commercial sandalwood plantations in Australia, mostly in the Western Australia – Outback region.

In 2011, there were approximately 13.3 million hectares of native forests in the Western Australia – Outback region, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland (4.6 million hectares), Eucalypt mallee woodland (4.4 million hectares), Acacia (3.1 million hectares), Eucalypt low woodland (740,600 hectares), Mangrove (105,500 hectares) and Casuarina (88,200 hectares) forest types. Approximately 5.1 million hectares of the native forests are leased and 2.7 million hectares are in nature conservation reserves. The main native forest industry is in the south west of the region. There are no timber processing industries in the Western Australia – Outback region.

In 2013–14, the total plantation area in Western Australia was approximately 391,500 hectares, comprised of approximately 287,300 hectares of hardwood plantations and 98 hectares of softwood plantations and 5,700 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 2014–15, the volume of native hardwood logs harvested was 331,000 cubic metres valued at $26 million. The volume of plantation hardwood logs harvested was 3.4 million cubic metres valued at $239 million. The volume of softwood harvested was 969,000 cubic metres valued at $61 million.

Sales and service income of the Western Australia wood product industry was estimated at $949 million in 2013–14.

In 2011, Western Australia's forestry sector employed 5,580 workers (0.5 per cent of the total employed workforce in Western Australia) compared with 5,972 (0.5 per cent) in 2006. The number of people employed includes forestry support services and timber wholesaling.

Areas of native forest, by tenure, Western Australia - Outback region
Shows the areas of native forest, by tenure in the Western Australia - Outback region. The figure is discussed in the previous paragraph.

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

References

ABS 2011, Census of Population and Housing, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

Fletcher, W & Santoro, K (eds). 2012, Status Reports of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of Western Australia 20112012: The State of the Fisheries, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.

Government of Western Australia 2013, Recreational Fishing Guide 2013 - simpler rules for better fishing, Department of Fisheries, Perth.

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Last reviewed:
15 May 2017