Agriculture in Australia has historically been one of the most significant industries in the country, both in terms of domestic production as well as in relation to the value of exports. Producing a wide range of primary products such as wheat, milk, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and meat, the sector contributes to a an important share of the country’s GDP. The major export commodities in this sector include beef, wheat, wool, wine, raw cotton, and lamb.
Australia’s key agricultural products
Crop production in Australia is vital in providing food for its local population as well as for livestock feed. Australia supplies a wide variety of cereals, sugar, and fruit to the rest of the world. Crops include cereals, grains, and legumes among others. Wheat accounts for the greatest contribution to the production value of cereals but requires a large land area. The yield of wheat in Australia has fluctuated around two metric tons per hectare.
In terms of animal products, the beef industry is the most significant for Australia – it is one of the leading beef exporters in the world, a position that looks likely to remain as the country continues to export the majority of its red meat. Conversely, Australians are tending to consume less beef and veal than in previous years. Following global trends, consumer preferences have shifted towards fish and poultry products.
The dairy industry in Australia is heavily influenced by international markets, trends, and events, primarily because it is a deregulated, open market. Although most of the dairy products produced in Australia are consumed locally, Australia is a key exporter of dairy, particularly to China and Japan. Employment in this industry is extensive; thousands of Australians are employed directly through dairy farms or companies. Furthermore, the subsequent processing of dairy products provides even more employment opportunities.
What affects this industry?
Australia contends with of a range of environmental factors that affect its agriculture industry. The 2020 bushfire season was particularly damaging, with millions of hectares of agricultural land affected. As with many sectors, the agricultural industry relies on water availability. Australia’s consumption of water in this sector was almost eight million megaliters in 2019. Pasture, cereal, and grazing crops require significant volumes of water, with most of this water distributed through irrigation channels or pipelines. With water scarcity and extreme weather already taking a toll on Australian agriculture, farmers will have to innovate and include emerging digital agriculture technology into their practices. This AgTech could provide tools and data to make more informed decisions and may lead to solutions to ensure growth in this industry in the future.