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Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in the Northern Territory, 2016

Research by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural
and Resource Economics and Sciences

About my region
December 2016

circular graphic with inter-woven images of agriculture, forestry and fisheries activities

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© Commonwealth of Australia 2016

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ABARES 2016, Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in the Northern Territory, 2016. About my region, Canberra, December. CC BY 3.0.

ABARES project 43009

Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)
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The Australian Government acting through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, represented by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, has exercised due care and skill in preparing and compiling the information and data in this publication. Notwithstanding, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, ABARES, its employees and advisers disclaim all liability, including for negligence and for any loss, damage, injury, expense or cost incurred by any person as a result of accessing, using or relying upon information or data in this publication to the maximum extent permitted by law.

Acknowledgements
ABARES relies on the voluntary cooperation of farmers participating in the annual Australian Agricultural and Grazing Industries Survey to provide data used in the preparation of this report. Without their help, these surveys would not be possible. ABARES farm survey staff collected most of the information presented in this report through on-farm interviews with farmers.

This territory profile was updated by Clay Mifsud, Aruni Weragoda, Jeremy van Dijk, Peter Martin, Milly Lubulwa, Dale Ashton, Mark Oliver, Beau Hug, Robert Curtotti, Jacob Savage, Peter Lock, Geoff Dunn, Lucy Randall and Evert Bleys.

Contents

Tables

Number of farms, by industry classification, 2014
Financial performance Northern Territory broadacre industries, 2013–14 to 2015–16, average per farm
Farm cash income of Northern Territory broadacre farms, by region, 2014–15 to 2015–16, average per farm

Figures

Employment profile,November 2014
Value of agricultural production, 2014
Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, 2014
Real farm cash income, Beef industry, 2001–02 to 2015–16, average per farm
Real farm cash income, Beef industry, farms with greater than 10 000 head, 2001–02 to 2015–16, average per farm
Real farm cash income, Beef industry, farms with less than 10 000 head, 2001–02 to 2015–16, average per farm
Area of native forest, by tenure, Northern Territory

Maps

Broad agricultural land use in the Northern Territory
ABARES Australian broadacre zones and regions

Boxes

Definitions

Regional overview

The Northern Territory covers a total area of around 1 349 129 square kilometres and is home to approximately 211 940 people (ABS 2011). Agricultural land in the Northern Territory occupies 615 028 square kilometres, or around 45.6 per cent of the state (refer to land use map below). Areas classified as conservation and natural environments (nature conservation, protected areas and minimal use) occupy 716 626 square kilometres, or 53 per cent of the state. The most common land use by area is grazing native vegetation, which occupies 611 600 square kilometres or 45.4 per cent of the state.

Broad land use in the Northern Territory

 Broad land use in the Northern Territory. Refer to preceeding text.
Source: ABARES 2015

Employment

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the November 2015 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 133 100 people were employed in the Northern Territory.

Public Administration and Safety was the largest employment sector with 23 000 people, followed by Construction with 15 800 people and Health Care and Social Assistance with 15 700 people (refer to figure below). The Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector employed 1 000 people, representing less than 1 per cent of the territory's workforce.

Display: Colour graph Tabular data Both graph and table

Employment profile, Northern Territory, November 2015

Refer to tablular data for details:Employment profile, Northern Territory, November 2014 Note: Annual average of the preceding 4 quarters
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, cat. no. 6291.0, Labour Force, Australia (ABS, 2015)

Agricultural sector

Value of agricultural production

In 2014–15, the gross value of agricultural production in Northern Territory was $835 million, which was 1.6 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia ($53.6 billion). This is the most recent year for which ABS data are available.

The most important commodities in Northern Territory (refer to figure below) based on the gross value of agricultural production were cattle and calves ($722 million), followed by melons ($42 million) and other livestock for meat ($25 million). These commodities together contributed 95 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in the jurisdiction.

Display: Colour graph Tabular data Both graph and table

Value of agricultural production, Northern Territory, 2014–15

Refer to tablular data for details: Value of agricultural production, Northern Territory, 2014–15
Note:
   The graph shows only data published by the ABS. Some values were not published by the ABS to ensure confidentiality (shown as 'not available' in tabular data).
   a 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 (ABS, 2016b)
 

Number and type of farms

ABS data indicate that in 2014–15 there were 375 farms in Northern Territory with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5 000 or more (refer to table below). The territory contains less than 1 per cent of all farm businesses in Australia.


Number of farms, by industry classification, Northern Territory, 2014–15
Industry
classification
Northern TerritoryAustralia
Number of farms % of TerritoryNumber of farmsContribution of NT
to Australian total
%


Note: Estimated value of agricultural operations $5 000 or more
   Industries contributing less than 1 per cent to the region total are not shown, but are included in the total
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised) 176 46.9 38 043 0.5
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing 107 28.5 14 907 0.7
Vegetable Growing (Outdoors) 49 13.1 9 575 0.5
Grape Growing 7 2.0 8 374 0.1
Other Crop Growing nec 7 1.9 7 330 0.1
Floriculture Production (Outdoors) 6 1.5 5 820 0.1
Other Livestock Farming nec 5 1.4 4 294 0.1
Other 18 4.7 21 723 0.1
Total agriculture 375 100 110 068 0.3

Farms in the table above are classified according to the activities that generate most of their value of production. Beef cattle farms (176) were the most common, accounting for 47 per cent of all farms in the Northern Territory.

Estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) is a measure of the value of production from farms and a measure of their business size. Around 24 per cent of farms in the Northern Territory had an EVAO of less than $50 000 (refer to figure below). These farms accounted for only 1 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in 2014–15. In comparison, 22 per cent of farms in the territory had an EVAO of more than $1 million and accounted for an estimated 75 per cent of the total value of agricultural operations in the Northern Territory in 2014–15.

Display: Colour graph Tabular data Both graph and table

Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Northern Territory, 2014–15

Refer to tablular data for details: Distribution of farms by estimated value of agricultural operations, Northern Territory, 2013–14
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Farm financial performance — Northern Territory

Each year, ABARES interviews Australian broadacre producers as part of its annual survey program. Broadacre industries covered in ABARES survey include the grains, grains–livestock, sheep, beef and sheep–beef industries. The information collected provides a basis for analysing the current financial position of farms in these industries and expected changes in the short term. This paper uses data from the ABARES Australian agricultural and grazing industries survey (AAGIS) to provide estimates of financial performance of Northern Territory beef industry farm businesses (Definitions).

Definitions
Major financial performance indicators
  • Total cash receipts: total revenues received by the business during the financial year.
  • Total cash costs: payments made by the business for materials and services and for permanent and casual hired labour (excluding owner manager, partner and family labour).
  • Farm cash income: total cash receipts - total cash costs
  • Farm business profit: farm cash income + changes in trading stocks - depreciation - imputed labour costs
  • Profit at full equity: return produced by all the resources used in the business, farm business profit + rent + interest + finance lease payments - depreciation on leased items
  • Rate of return: return to all capital used, profit at full equity * 100 / total opening capital
  • Equity ratio: Farm capital minus farm debt expressed as a percentage of farm capital
  • Beef: farms mainly engaged in running beef cattle.

Performance of beef industry farms — Northern Territory

Many farm businesses in the upper Northern Territory derive a large share of their total cash receipts from selling cattle for live export, particularly to Indonesia. Numbers of cattle sold for live export declined between 2009–10 and 2012–13, before rebounding strongly in 2013–14 and 2014–15. As a result of the expansion of the live export trade in 2013–14 and 2014–15, cattle for this market are now also being sourced from a much expanded area of northern Australia.

In 2014–15 farm cash income more than doubled to average $767 600 a farm (farm cash income figure and financial performance table below) as a result of a 19 per cent increase in average cattle prices received and a large increase in cattle turn-off. Overall, total cash receipts are estimated to have increased by around 35 per cent. Increase in total cash receipts was partly offset by an increase in total farm cash costs – mainly as a result of increased transfer of cattle on to Northern Territory properties by farm businesses with properties interstate. Despite these transfers, the overall herd size is estimated to have been reduced.

In 2015–16 total farm cash receipts are expected to have increased further, mainly as a result of further increase in average prices received per head sold and continued high cattle turn-off. Average total cash costs are projected to have increased, partly offsetting higher farm receipts – with higher expenditure on fodder and hired labour and beef cattle purchases. High cattle turn-off is projected to have resulted in a further reduction in herd size.

Overall, Northern Territory farm cash incomes are projected to have increased to average $1.2 million a farm in 2015–16, almost three times the 10–year average to 2014–15 of $407 000 a farm.

Real farm cash income, beef industry, 2001–02 to 2015–16, average per farm

Refer to tablular data for details: Real farm cash income, beef industry, average per farm
Note: y Provisional estimate.
Source: ABARES Australian Agricultural and Grazing Industries Survey


The average financial performance of beef industry farms in the Northern Territory is heavily influenced by the performance of very large herd size businesses, mostly corporate farms. These farms are found in all Northern Territory Regions, but predominantly in the Barkly and Victoria River—Katherine districts. These businesses dominate cattle turn-off and financial performance estimates for the Northern Territory and typically have financial performance that is well above the average for other smaller herd size businesses in the region.

Farm cash income of businesses with greater than 10 000 head of cattle averaged $1.4 million over the 10 years ending 2014–15 (refer to figure below).

Farm cash income, beef industry farms with greater than 10 000 head of cattle, 2001–02 to 2015–16, average per farm

Refer to tablular data for details: Real farm cash income, beef industry farms with greater than 10 000 head of cattle, average per farm
Note: y Provisional estimate.
Source: ABARES Australian Agricultural and Grazing Industries Survey

In contrast, farm cash income of businesses with less than 10 000 head of beef cattle averaged just $70 000 per farm over the same period with substantial variability between years (refer to figure below).

Farm cash income, Northern Territory beef industry farms with less than 10 000 head of cattle, 2001–2002 to 2015–2016, average per farm

Refer to tablular data for details: Real farm cash income, beef industry, average per farm
Note: y Provisional estimate.
Source: ABARES Australian Agricultural and Grazing Industries Survey

Financial performance of Northern Territory broadacre industries,
2013–14 to 2015–16, average per farm
Performance indicator 2013–14 2014–15 p RSE 2015–16 y


Source: ABARES Australian Agricultural and Grazing Industries Survey
RSE Standard errors expressed as a percentage of the estimate provided
a Excludes capital appreciation
b Excludes leased plant and equipment
c Average per responding farm
d Equity expressed as a percentage of farm capital
e Rate of return to farm capital at 1 July
f Off-farm income of owner manager and spouse
na Not available
p Preliminary estimate
y Provisional estimate
Total cash receipts ($) 1 610 570 2 199 400 (13) 2 720 000
Total cash costs ($) 1 252 700 1 431 800 (11) 1 482 000
Farm cash income ($) 357 870 767 600 (20) 1 238 000
Farms with negative farm cash income (%) 51 19 (32) 4
Farm business profit ($) 463 190 472 100 (38) 956 000
Profit at full equity a ($) 541 590 589 100 (29) 1 078 000
Farm capital at 30 June b ($) 18 950 860 19 553 300 (10) na
Farm debt at 30 June c ($) 1 249 020 1 391 900 (22) na
Equity ratio c d (%) 84 85 (3) na
Rate of return a e (%) 2.9 3.1 (24) 5.8
Off-farm income f ($) 64 800 64 600 (45) na

The average farm cash income of beef industry farms in 2014–15 and 2015–16 varies across regions, partly as a consequence of the differences in average herd size within the regions. Farm cash income in the Barkly region which is dominated by large herd size farms is estimated to have averaged $2.9 million a farm in 2014–15 and is projected increase to $4.7 million in 2015–16 (refer to table below). Farm cash income is projected to have increased in all Northern Territory regions in 2015–16, with the largest percentage increases in the Victoria River District–Katherine and the Top End (refer to table below).


Farm cash income of Northern Territory
broadacre farms, by region ,
2014–15 to 2015–16, average per farm
Region 2014–15 ($)p RSE 2015–16 ($)y


Source: ABARES Australian Agricultural and Grazing Industries Survey
RSE Standard error expressed as a percentage of the estimate provided
p Preliminary estimate
y Provisional estimate
711: Alice Springs District414 000(27)614 000
712: Barkly Tablelands2 897 000(30)4 718 000
713: Victoria River District – Katherine402 000(37)705 000
714: Top End Darwin and the Gulf199 000(72)342 000

ABARES Australian broadacre zones and regions

 ABARES Australian broadacre zones and regions
Note: Each region is identified by a unique code of three digits. The first digit identifies the state or territory, the second digit identifies the zone and the third digit identifies the region.
Source: ABARES

Fisheries sector

In 2013–14 the gross value of Northern Territory managed fisheries production (both aquaculture and wild-catch) was $45.9 million, a decrease of 21 per cent ($12 million) from 2012–13. The Northern Territory contributed 2 per cent of the total value of Australian fisheries production in 2013–14. In value terms, the wild-catch sector accounted for 67 per cent ($31 million) of the territory's total production and the aquaculture sector accounted for the remaining 33 per cent ($15 million).

The Northern Territory's wild-catch fisheries sector provides a range of fisheries products. The highest contribution is from crabs (primarily mud crabs), which account for 15 per cent of the total value of wild-catch fisheries with a value of $4.6 million. Other important wild-catch fisheries products are gold band snapper (14 per cent; $4.3 million), mackerel (13 per cent; $4.1 million) and barramundi (8 per cent; $2.6 million). Over the past decade the value of the Northern Territory's wild-catch fisheries products has decreased by 26 per cent to $31 million in 2013–14. The products for which the real value of production declined most over the past decade are shark and sea perch, falling by $9 million and $5 million respectively between 2003–04 and 2013–14. In 2013–14 the value of the Northern Territory's aquaculture production is estimated to have decreased by 38 per cent from $24 million in 2012–13 to $15 million in 2013–14.

The Commonwealth managed Northern Prawn Fishery was the most valuable fishery in the Northern Territory, with a gross value of production in 2013–14 of $115 million, across the entire fishery (some of which is landed in Queensland). In 2013–14, the gross value of production for the Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery increased by 62 per cent because of a 69 per cent increase in volume. Darwin is a major landing site for this fishery.

In 2013–14, the Northern Territory's seafood product exports were valued at around $0.05 million by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This amount will not include Northern Territory production that is exported from ports elsewhere in Australia. The main export products include live and fresh, chilled or frozen fish, and crabs, with Japan and Hong Kong being the main export markets. The main non-edible fisheries product produced for the export market in the Northern Territory was pearls.

It is estimated that Northern Territory residents and visitors spend nearly $51 million annually on recreational fishing, with the purchase of vessels and vehicles and their associated running costs making up the bulk of the expenditure (West et. al. 2012). According to the most recent survey of recreational fishing activity in the Northern Territory (West et. al. 2012), the main target fish species are barramundi, followed by golden snapper, small bait fish, catfish, saddletail and crimson snapper, and mullet. Mud crabs dominate the crustacean catch, followed by cherabin, the giant freshwater prawn.

The Northern Territory also has a significant indigenous customary fish sector. The 2000–01 National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey (NRIFS) aimed to better understand the level of fishing undertaken by the Indigenous fishing sector (Henry and Lyle 2003). The survey collected fisheries catch statistics from Indigenous people aged five years and older, living in coastal communities across the north of Australia, from Broome in Western Australia to Cairns in Queensland (excluding those living in the Torres Strait). The survey showed that an estimated 37 000 Indigenous people living in the north of Australia fished at least once during the survey year. This was equivalent to 92 per cent of the Indigenous population in the region.

The survey indicated that Indigenous fishers in northern Australia harvested approximately 900 000 finfish, 1 million molluscs, 660 000 prawns and yabbies, 180 000 crabs and rock lobsters and smaller numbers of other species during 2000–01. The most prominent finfish species groups were mullet, catfish, tropical snapper, bream and barramundi. The most prominent non–finfish species groups were mussels, freshwater prawn, mud crabs, prawns and oysters.

Forestry sector

In 2013–14, the total plantation area in the Northern Territory was approximately 44 700 hectares, comprised of approximately 42 300 hectares of hardwood plantations and 2 400 hectares of softwood plantations. In 2014–15 there was a small volume of plantation forests harvested.

The main hardwood species planted are mangium (Acacia mangium) and African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis). Plantations in the Northern Territory are predominantly located on Melville and Tiwi Islands and some northern parts of the mainland.

In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, there were approximately 15.2 million hectares of native forests in the Northern Territory, comprised mainly of Eucalypt medium woodland (5.8 million hectares), Eucalypt medium open (5.0 million hectares), Acacia (957 600 hectares), Melaleuca (896 000 hectares), Eucalypt low woodland (855 400 hectares), Eucalypt low open (472 800 hectares), Mangrove (333 800 hectares) and Rainforest (259 700 hectares) forest types. Approximately 9.6 million hectares of the native forests are privately owned and 5.2 million hectares are leased forests (refer to figure below). There are no major timber processing industries in the Northern Territory.

Display: Colour graph Tabular data Both graph and table

Area of native forest, by tenure, Northern Territory

Refer to tablular data for details: Area of native forest, by tenure for Northern Territory
Source: ABARES Australia's State of the Forests Report 2013



Sales and service income in the Northern Territory wood product industry was estimated at approximately $23 million in 2013–14.

In 2011, the Northern Territory forestry sector employed 244 people (0.3 per cent of the total employed workforce in the Northern Territory) compared with 197 (0.3 per cent) in 2006. The number of people employed includes forestry support services and timber wholesaling.

References

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

ABS 2015, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Nov 2015, cat. no. 6291.0.55.003, Australian Bureau Statistics, Canberra.

ABS 2016a, Agricultural Commodities, Australia, 2014–2015, cat. no. 7121.0, Australian Bureau Statistics, Canberra.

ABS 2016b, Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia, 2014–15, cat. no. 7503.0, Australian Bureau Statistics, Canberra.

ABARES 2015, Catchment scale land use of Australia – update March 2015, ABARES, Canberra, April. CC by 3.0, available at http://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/publications/display?url=http://143.188.17.20/anrdl/DAFFService/display.php?fid=pb_luausg9abll20150415_11a.xml

ABARES 2016, Australian forest and wood products statistics: September and December quarters 2015, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra, May.

Henry, G.W. and Lyle, J.M. 2003, The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey, FRDC Project No. 99/158.

Montreal Process Implementation Group for Australia and National Forest Inventory Steering Committee 2013, Australia's State of the Forests Report 2013, ABARES, Canberra, December.

West, L. D., Lyle, J. M., Matthews, S. R., Stark, K. E. and Steffe, A. S. 2012, Survey of Recreational Fishing in the Northern Territory, 2009–10. Northern Territory Government, Australia. Fishery Report No. 109, available at http://www.nt.gov.au/d/Content/File/p/Fish_Rep/FR109.pdf