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How Many Farms Are There in Australia?
2020-11-02

Surrounded by sea, Australia is the only country in the world that covers an entire continent. It has many unique flora, fauna and natural landscapes. Australia is a country of immigrants that embraces multiculturalism. Located between the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, it consists of the continent of Australia and the islands of Tasmania, with a continental area of 7.69 million square kilometres, making it the largest island and the smallest and flattest land mass on earth. The total amount of water resources is small, and with the exception of Antarctica, Australia is the driest continent in the world, with an average precipitation of merely 465 mm. The annual precipitation is highly variable and unevenly distributed, mainly between winter and spring. Inter-annual variability in precipitation is also high, with successive wet and dry years recorded. The uneven spatial and temporal distribution of precipitation means that Australia must secure its economic and social demand for water by building water projects. In western Queensland, there is an artesian well area of 1.75 million square kilometres, which is the largest artesian well area in the world, but the well water is too saline to irrigate agricultural land.

One third of mainland Australia is unsuitable for agriculture and one third is suitable only for livestock, but the amount of agricultural land is still significant. Agricultural land accounts for about 40.8 billion hectares, or about 63 per cent of the country's land area. More than 90 per cent of the agricultural land is natural pasture, amounting to 440 million hectares; arable land covers only 48.76 million hectares, of which 4 per cent is irrigated.

Australia can be divided into three agricultural belts, based on natural and social factors such as climate, soil type, water availability and market operations.

The pastoral zone, which includes most of Western Australia and South Australia, as well as western New South Wales and southern Queensland, is characterized by low rainfall and less fertile soils suitable for large areas of natural pasture grazing.

The Wheat Sheep Zone, which extends southwards from central Queensland through the New South Wales slopes to northern Victoria and the South Australian agricultural region, is characterised by a climate and topography that allows conventionally grown cereals to grow and is also more suitable for intensive grazing of cattle and sheep than on livestock areas.

The high rainfall zone, which extends from the northern coast of Queensland to the south-eastern corner of South Australia and the south-western corner of Western Australia and Tasmania, has more abundant rainfall and is more suitable for grazing and intensive crop growth, and Australia's dairy industry is largely located in high rainfall zones along the coast.

Australia's major grain and oil crops include wheat, barley, sorghum, rice, cotton, sunflower, oilseed rape, and peanuts. Important cash crops include sugar cane, vegetables, potatoes, citrus, apples, pineapples, bananas, pears, macadamia nuts, European chestnuts, and long pecans, producing more than 120 tropical and subtropical horticultural products. The forest coverage rate is 20%, the natural forest area is about 155 million hectares (2/3 of which is eucalyptus), and the timber forest area is about 1.22 million hectares. The livestock industry is well developed, and the production and export of livestock products occupy an important position in the national economy, and the country is a large exporter of wool and beef in the world. Rich in fishery resources, the fishing area is 16% more than the national land area, the third largest fishing area in the world; the main aquatic products are prawns, lobsters, abalone, tuna, scallops, oysters, oysters and so on.

Although the importance of Australian agriculture to the nation in terms of GDP, export earnings and employment has declined since the 1950s, it remains one of the five pillars of the Australian economy and plays an important role in the economic and social structure.

 

Ownership of farms

95 per cent of farms in Australia are family farms. Partnerships between family members are also considered a form of family farming. The proportion of co-operative farms is small. The number of company farms is also small. The Australian Government allows foreign nationals to own all or part of a farm in Australia, which is currently a small proportion, with 98.5% of farms owned by Australian citizens. However, only 88 per cent of agricultural land is owned outright by Australian citizens, and 12 per cent of agricultural land is foreign owned. Australia's land is 72% publicly owned, 15% privately owned and 13% indigenous, which is rare in developed countries. Its privately owned land came from land granted successively by the colonial government for the development of agriculture, so that the proportion of privatized land is higher in the earlier developed states, while land in the capital and Northern Territory is almost publicly owned. As a result, it is common for most farms in Australia to operate through leases of public land in the hands of the government, paying an annual rent to the government and restricting the use of the land, with strict management of the land in accordance with the terms of the lease as set out by the government; when a leaseholder breaches the lease, the government will give a deadline in the form of a notice of default to resolve the issues arising from the breach, and if the leaseholder fails to meet the deadline, the government can repossess the land and impose a fine. At the end of the lease, the Government may terminate the lease. Land with no end date on the lease is also used in accordance with the terms of the lease. Land with a short lease period cannot be bought or sold, while land with a long lease period can be bought or sold within the lease period with the approval of the government land management department. The value added to the land due to the improvement of the land by the leaseholder belongs to the leaseholder. The leased land can be mortgaged upon approval by the government, provided that the land use and lease term are met. Private land owned by an individual is generally operated by the owner's family and is rarely leased out; if it is, the terms of the lease are agreed upon by both parties. Private individuals are also less likely to lease land from the Government and then sublease it, due to the cumbersome government approval procedures.

Number and size of farms

As at 30 June 2013, there were approximately 1.29 million farms in Australia, compared with 1.69 million in 1980, 1.46 million in 2000 and 1.34 million in 2010, reflecting a declining trend in the number of farms focused on agricultural production. However, the average area of agricultural land and the area of crops per farm have increased at the same time, which is an inevitable manifestation of concentrating land and expanding the scale of operation on the basis of capital accumulation, in order to improve production efficiency and effectiveness.

From 1994 to 2013, the area of farmland in Australia decreased by 7.7 billion hectares, or 74 per cent of its land area, but the size of farms remains large, although the area of crops grown per farm is relatively much smaller. The best performing states, Queensland and New South Wales, have 75 per cent and 74 per cent farmland to state land area, respectively, but only about 25 per cent and 16 per cent farm crop area to agricultural land area. The Northern Territory is even more extreme, with an average of 128,000 hectares of farmland and less than 100 hectares of crops. This suggests that there is a significant amount of unimproved land in Australia, but it is also possible that the imbalance in economic construction and development is exacerbating differences in farm size between states, with the economically developed regions generally having relatively small farms.

Farm size is related to the content of the business. Less than 10% of farms in Australia are over 2,500 hectares in size, and are essentially cattle and sheep farms, crop farms such as grain and cotton, or mixed farming and grazing farms. Farms of less than 500 hectares account for 70 per cent of farms and nearly 50 per cent of farms of less than 50 hectares.

Distribution of farm industries

There are nearly 1.15 million farms in Australia in the top three categories in 2013, accounting for 89.2 per cent of the total, of which 77.1 per cent are cattle and sheep or grain farms, with the largest number of beef cattle farms, sheep farms, and other non-agricultural production farms that support agricultural operations. grain and beef cattle-based mixed farming and grain and fruit-growing farms account for about 10 per cent each.

Surrounded by sea, Australia is the only country in the world that covers an entire continent. It has many unique flora, fauna and natural landscapes. Australia is a country of immigrants that embraces multiculturalism. Located between the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, it consists of the continent of Australia and the islands of Tasmania, with a continental area of 7.69 million square kilometres, making it the largest island and the smallest and flattest land mass on earth. The total amount of water resources is small, and with the exception of Antarctica, Australia is the driest continent in the world, with an average precipitation of merely 465 mm. The annual precipitation is highly variable and unevenly distributed, mainly between winter and spring. Inter-annual variability in precipitation is also high, with successive wet and dry years recorded. The uneven spatial and temporal distribution of precipitation means that Australia must secure its economic and social demand for water by building water projects. In western Queensland, there is an artesian well area of 1.75 million square kilometres, which is the largest artesian well area in the world, but the well water is too saline to irrigate agricultural land.

One third of mainland Australia is unsuitable for agriculture and one third is suitable only for livestock, but the amount of agricultural land is still significant. Agricultural land accounts for about 40.8 billion hectares, or about 63 per cent of the country's land area. More than 90 per cent of the agricultural land is natural pasture, amounting to 440 million hectares; arable land covers only 48.76 million hectares, of which 4 per cent is irrigated.

Australia can be divided into three agricultural belts, based on natural and social factors such as climate, soil type, water availability and market operations.

The pastoral zone, which includes most of Western Australia and South Australia, as well as western New South Wales and southern Queensland, is characterized by low rainfall and less fertile soils suitable for large areas of natural pasture grazing.

The Wheat Sheep Zone, which extends southwards from central Queensland through the New South Wales slopes to northern Victoria and the South Australian agricultural region, is characterised by a climate and topography that allows conventionally grown cereals to grow and is also more suitable for intensive grazing of cattle and sheep than on livestock areas.

The high rainfall zone, which extends from the northern coast of Queensland to the south-eastern corner of South Australia and the south-western corner of Western Australia and Tasmania, has more abundant rainfall and is more suitable for grazing and intensive crop growth, and Australia's dairy industry is largely located in high rainfall zones along the coast.

Australia's major grain and oil crops include wheat, barley, sorghum, rice, cotton, sunflower, oilseed rape, and peanuts. Important cash crops include sugar cane, vegetables, potatoes, citrus, apples, pineapples, bananas, pears, macadamia nuts, European chestnuts, and long pecans, producing more than 120 tropical and subtropical horticultural products. The forest coverage rate is 20%, the natural forest area is about 155 million hectares (2/3 of which is eucalyptus), and the timber forest area is about 1.22 million hectares. The livestock industry is well developed, and the production and export of livestock products occupy an important position in the national economy, and the country is a large exporter of wool and beef in the world. Rich in fishery resources, the fishing area is 16% more than the national land area, the third largest fishing area in the world; the main aquatic products are prawns, lobsters, abalone, tuna, scallops, oysters, oysters and so on.

Although the importance of Australian agriculture to the nation in terms of GDP, export earnings and employment has declined since the 1950s, it remains one of the five pillars of the Australian economy and plays an important role in the economic and social structure.