The 2011 Census confirms the vegetable industry is Australia’s fourth largest agriculture industry, larger than fruit, lamb, wool and sugar. The data reveals 20% of primary vegetable establishments produce under cover with NSW exceeding the national average. In South Australia almost half the number of vegetable establishments are under cover. By contrast, the number under cover in Tasmania and the Northern territory is under 10%, and not much more than 10% in Victoria.
Queensland has the highest number of vegetable establishments (1508), closely followed by NSW (1467). However, growing establishments in NSW, mainly in the Sydney Basin, are smaller than in Queensland—the average establishment in NSW is 10.8ha, compared to 21.7ha in Queensland.
The census found that the number of vegetable growers producing for consumption fell 3.4% on the previous year, reflecting consolidation in the industry. However, vegetable grower numbers have fallen by 764 or 11.7%.
On the positive side of the ledger is 10.4% growth in the gross value of vegetable production, measured at point-of-sale, usually the wholesale market or processing factory—from $3.023 billion in 2009/10 to $3.338 billion in 2010/11. This is the figure that measures the vegetable industry’s contribution to the national accounts.
Data was collected on 16 vegetables in the 2011 census. In order of value, the top 10 are: potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, melons, lettuce, carrots, beans, capsicum and broccoli. Compared to the 2006 census, production fell for potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, capsicum and carrots. Tomato production fell from 450,459 tonnes in 2006 to 301,719 tonnes in the 2011 census, but increased in value from $272.8 million to $418.1 million. Similarly, lettuce production fell—from 162,832 tonnes in 2006 to 144,637 tonnes for 2011, but the value increased from $159.1 million to $164 million. Herbs have a higher presence with yields of 7362 tonnes in the 2011 census compared to 4947 tonnes for 2006.