Record crops deliver big agriculture gains

·2-min read

Record crops have helped Australian agriculture deliver a bumper year, with new data showing a 17 per cent increase in value to $70.9 billion.

The agricultural census, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducts every five years, provides a snapshot of the farming industry.

It was filled out by 100,000 Australian farmers in July 2021.

The ABS director of agriculture statistics Sarah Kiely said 2020-2021 was a fantastic year for the industry, with above average yields and record production for broadacre crops such as wheat, barley and canola.

Total crop values in 2020-21 rose by 41 per cent compared with the previous year, while the value of total livestock disposals fell six per cent.

Ms Kiely told AAP wheat had been a standout.

"For wheat in particular ... it's a 99 per cent increase to $9.9 billion in 2021 and that means there was also a production increase from the previous year of 120 per cent," she said on Tuesday.

The value of barley rose by 24 per cent to $3.7 billion, with production up 45 per cent on the previous year.

Meanwhile the value of canola rose by 114 per cent to $2.9 billion.

Drought-breaking rainfall and improved seasonal conditions helped the production and value of irrigated crops such as cotton to recover from recent lows.

Cotton production was up 451,300 tonnes to 566,000 tonnes, with the gross value up $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion in 2020-21.

Some 1.9 million hectares of agricultural land was irrigated, up 28 per cent.

A total of 7.8 million megalitres of water was applied to crops and pastures in 2020-21, up 37 per cent from the previous year.

The Bureau of Meteorology declared the 2020-21 financial year was the coolest and wettest for Australia since 2016-17.

Results were more mixed for livestock according to Ms Kiely.

"We've seen increases across the board ... of numbers of livestock ... Farmers are building their herds because of the great conditions," she said.

The ABS reported the value of livestock products as largely steady, with egg production up by almost a third to over $1 billion, offsetting falls in wool, down by four per cent to $2.6 billion.

Milk production was down slightly by three per cent to $4.7 billion.

Declines in the value of livestock disposals were largely due to farmers using the improved seasonal conditions and better pastures as an opportunity to rebuild their stocks.

This saw a four per cent increase in the beef cattle herd to 22.1 million head in 2020-2021 compared with the previous year.

Increases were also seen in sheep numbers, which were up seven per cent to 68.1 million head, and the dairy herd was up one per cent to 2.4 million head.

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