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This page provides high level information and data on the Agricultural industry which comprises the following industry sectors:  production horticulture, broadacre farming, livestock farming, mixed crop and livestock farming, agriculture support services and wholesaling.

In 2017, around 272,500 people were employed in the Agriculture and Agriculture and Fishing Support Services. However, this does not include all employment activity throughout the supply chain. 

Please visit the following pages for data specific to the following agricultural sectors

Visit the following pages for more information on Amenity Horticulture and Conservation, Animal Care and Management, Food and Pharmaceutical Production, Transport, Retail and Wholesale, and Tourism, Travel and Hospitality industries.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Industry cluster snapshot

Employment and training snapshot

Employment in the Agriculture and Agriculture and Fishing Support Services industries has declined by around a third between 2000 and 2017.  

Program enrolments in agriculture-related qualifications in 2016 were around 51,000, which has declined from around 59,600 in 2014. 

Industry insights on skills needs

Priority skills infographic Infographic title: Priority skills: 2017 skills forecast,, Infographic data,, Title: Top cross-sector priority skills,,safe operation of machinery and new technology,pest management, chemical application and management, data capture and analysis, rural management and agribusiness, irrigation design and management, carbon farming Title: Top industry-specific priority skills,, production nurseries, apiculture, viticulture,   Infographic title: Skills and occupations in demand: job vacancies,, "Title: Top generic skills in demand,,Communication Skills, Organisational Skills, Detail-Orientated, Planning, Computer Skills " "Title: Top 5 occupations in demand,,Farmhand, Stablehand, Farm Manager " "Title: Top 5 locations,, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia " Infographic source, Priority skills source: Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management IRC Skills Forecast and Schedule of Work 2016-17, Job vacancy occupations in demand source: Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight Real Time Labor Market Information tool

The Agriculture and Production Horticulture industry is diverse and comprises many industry sectors and sub-sectors including:

  • Production Horticulture:
    • Nursey production and retail
    • Floriculture production
    • Vegetable growing
    • Fruit and nut tree growing
    • Viticulture.
  • Broadacre farming:
    • Grain growing
    • Fodder growing
    • Sugarcane growing
    • Cotton growing
    • Seed production.
  • Livestock farming:
    • Sheep
    • Beef cattle
    • Dairy cattle
    • Poultry
    • Deer
    • Pigs
    • Bees.
  • Mixed crop and livestock farming
  • Agricultural support services:
    • Aerial agricultural services
    • Shearing
    • Contract crop harvesting
    • Animal testing
    • Cotton ginning and trading.
  • Agricultural product wholesaling.

According to the Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Industry Reference Committee (IRC) Skills Forecast key macro forces that currently challenge and provide opportunities for the industry’s sectors and its workforce include:

  • The high level of regulation the industry operates under.
  • The significance of global food security and higher food demand in expanding markets such as the Asia Pacific region, which is being reflected in a number of government policies aimed at facilitating growth in the sector (e.g. free trade agreements). The challenge is for businesses to benefit from government program and policies by becoming export-ready, culturally literate and market savvy.
  • There are national and state-/territory-based biosecurity policies and strategies to combat pests and diseases that could have a negative impact on production and access to markets.
  • Climate change and its effects on agricultural crops and biosecurity will create both challenges and opportunities for many producers to capitalise on technology and increase collaboration in supply chains to support the development of more resilient crop varieties and large-scale farming systems.
  • Water and land availability, as the industry faces strains on access to freshwater, managing water resources more efficiently, population growth and urban expansion into farmland, and competing demands for land and resources. 
  • New global farming trends, including the growth of new food sources; improved pharmaceuticals related to, for example, bugs on food and agricultural waste; and new sources of stockfeed and fertiliser increasing international trade, create both challenges and opportunities for agricultural producers.
  • The role of research, innovation and applied technology in the development of precision agriculture technologies – for example, drones and new chemical solutions – that help growers to increase productivity.
  • The industry has an ageing workforce, and about 23 per cent of the industry’s workforce is likely to retire over the next five years.
  • A significant number of the industry’s workforce occupy roles that are unique and specific to the relevant sub-sectors, such as livestock and crop farmers, farm workers, shearers, agricultural and horticultural plant operators, nurserypersons and other nursery workers, and gardeners.
  • The industry also employs a significant number of other occupations such as clerical and administrative workers, process workers, mobile plant operators, road and rail drivers, agricultural scientists, and veterinarians. 
  • Investment in new technology means there is less reliance on farm labour.
  • Seasonal nature of employment in the agriculture industry means it is more appealing to seasonal workers from overseas, who are an important source of labour for the industry. The Pacific Islander Seasonal Worker Programme and skilled migrants from Asia and Africa are also sources of labour for Australian farms, but there are challenges due to migration policies and ongoing pressure on the government.

Given these factors, the Skills Forecast identifies a range of priority skills needs to ensure the workforce is able to face the challenges identified above.

  • New technology means new skills are required to safely operate machinery and new technology
  • Issues with biosecurity means skills in pest management are required
  • Chemical application and management skills
  • Skills in production nurseries
  • Skills in data capture and analysis
  • Advanced skills in rural management in business
  • Skills in irrigation design and management
  • Skills in viticulture
  • Skills in apiculture
  • Skills in Carbon Farming. 

Relevant research

2016 Agrifood talent report – Agricultural Appointments

Agricultural competitiveness white paper: stronger farmers, stronger economy –Australian Government

A workforce development strategy for the Australian cotton industry – Agrifood Skills Solution

Current knowledge on workforce issues in Victorian agriculture: primary industries policy discussion paper – Dr Lisa Cowan, Social Researcher with Rural Development and Transition Policy Unit

Empowering women in agriculture: Australia and beyond – Tess Marslen, Future Directions International

Industry outlook: agriculture, forestry and fishing – Australian Government, Department of Employment

National agriculture workforce development plan – National Farmers’ Federation

New immigrants improving productivity in Australian agriculture – Agrifutures Australia

Readiness to meet demand for skills: a study of five growth industries – Francesca Beddie, Mette Creaser, Jo Hargreaves, Adrian Ong, National Centre for Vocational Education Research

Report on South Australia's industry priority qualifications – South Australian Training and Skills Commission

Sector profile: agriculture, forestry and fishing – South Australian Training and Skills Commission

Transitioning regional economies – Productivity Commission

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Agribusiness Australia

Agricultural Supply Wholesaling

AgriFutures Australia

Almond Board of Australia

Animal Health Australia

Apple and Pear Australia Limited

Australasian Alpaca Breeders Association

Australia Wool Testing Authority

Australian Alpaca Association

Australian Asparagus Council

Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders

Australian Banana Growers' Council

Australian Blueberry Growers' Association

Australian Cane Farmers Association

Australian Chicken Growers' Council

Australian Cotton Ginners Association

Australian Cotton Shippers Association

Australian Custom Harvesters

Australian Dairy Farmers

Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme

Australian Dairy Industry Council

Australian Egg Corporation Limited

Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association

Australian Farm Institute

Australian Fodder Industry Association

Australian Honey Bee Industry Council Inc.

Australian Institute of Horticulture

Australian Livestock & Property Agents Association

Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters' Association

Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council

Australian Lot Feeders' Association

Australian Lychee Growers Association

Australian Macadamia Society Ltd

Australian Mango Industry Association

Australian Melon Association Inc.

Australian Mungbean Association

Australian Mushroom Growers’ Association Ltd

Australian Nut Industry Council

Australian Oilseeds Federation

Australian Olive Association

Australian Organic

Australian Organics Recycling Association

Australian Ostrich Association

Australian Pecan Growers Association Inc.

Australian Pig Breeders Association

Australian Pineapple Association

Australian Pork Limited

Australian Queen Bee Breeders’ Association

Australian Seed Federation

Australian Seeds Authority

Australian Society of Horticultural Science

Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology

Australian Sunflower Association

Australian Sweetpotato Growers Inc.

Australian Table Grape Association

Australian Vignerons

Australian Wool Exchange

Australian Wool Innovation


Avocados Australia Ltd

Barley Australia

Bean Growers Australia


Cattle Council of Australia

Cherry Growers Australia Inc.

Chestnuts Australia Inc.

Citrus Australia

Corporate Agriculture Australia

Cotton Australia

Cotton Research and Development Corporation

Crocodile Farmers Association of the Northern Territory

Crop Consultants Australia

Crop Pollination Association

Custard Apples Australia

Dairy Australia

Dairy Goat Society of Australia

Deer Industry Association of Australia

Dried Fruits Australia

Egg Farmers of Australia

Fertilizer Australia

Fisheries Research and Development Corporation

Flower Export Council of Australia

Goat Industry Council of Australia

Grain and Feed Trade Association

Grain Growers

Grain Producers Australia

Grain Trade Australia

Grains Research and Development Corporation

Green Roofs Australasia

Hazelnut Growers of Australia Inc

Honey Packers & Marketers Association of Australia Inc

Horticulture Innovation Australia

Institute of Australian Geographers

Irrigation Australia

Livestock Biosecurity Network Inc

Local Government Tree Resources Association

Maize Association of Australia

Meat & Livestock Australia

National Farmers' Federation

National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme

National Herd Improvement Association of Australia Incorporated

National Irrigators’ Council

Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association

Onions Australia

Organic Federation of Australia

Passionfruit Australia Inc

Peanut Company of Australia

Persimmons Australia Inc

Pistachio Growers Association Inc

Plant Health Australia

Potato Processing Association of Australia


Protected Cropping Australia

Pulse Australia

Raspberries and Blackberries Australia

Regional Australia Institute

Rice Growers’ Association of Australia

Rural Skills Australia

Shearing Contractors’ Association of Australia

Sheepmeat Council of Australia

South Australian Wine Industry Association

Soy Australia

Strawberries Australia Inc

Summerfruit Australia Limited

Sustainable Gardening Australia

The Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand

The Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network 

Tropical Exotic Fruit Australia

Utility Arborist Association Australia

Voice of Horticulture

Wheat Exports Australia

Wheat Quality Australia

Wine Australia

Wool Classers' Association of Australia

Wool Producers Australia

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment, 2017, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal  

  • by ANZSIC  2 and 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2022
    • 01 Agriculture
    • 052 Agriculture and Fishing Support Services.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), sex, state and territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06, viewed 1 September 2017 <>

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 2 and 3 digit Industry, 2000 to 2017, May Quarter
    • 01 Agriculture
    • 052 Agriculture and Fishing Support Services.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses, 2016 Program Enrolments by AHC – Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package.

Priority skills data has been extracted from Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Industry Reference Committee (IRC) Skills Forecast. Each IRC has prioritised and ranked the generic skills.

Burning Glass Technologies: Labor insight – real-time labor market information tool <> 2017.

  • Job advertisements from all of Australia from January 2014 to August 2017 are included in the analysis. Data shown is the top five advertised VET-related occupations (4 digit level occupations) in the Agriculture industry and the top five locations according to job advertisements.
  • Skills data has also been extracted from the Burning Glass labour insights job vacancy data tool. Data shown is the proportion of job advertisements which request generic skills for VET-related occupations in the industry and occupations listed above.


Updated: 02 Oct 2018
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