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Agriculture

Overview

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 Agricultural Product Wholesaling.

Please visit the following pages for data specific to the following Agricultural sectors:

Nationally recognised training for the Agriculture industry is delivered under the AHC – Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package. The relevant Skills Service Organisation for this industry is Skills Impact.

Visit the following pages for more information on Amenity Horticulture and Land Management, Animal Care and Management, Food Production, HospitalityRetail and Transport industries.  

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

Industry cluster snapshot

Employment and training snapshot

Overall employment levels in the Agriculture industry declined from 372,100 in 2002 to 242,100 in 2022, however the level is projected to rise to 315,800 by 2025. 

Employment levels in Agriculture and Fishing Support Services fluctuated between 21,700 in 2002, declining to 15,800 in 2010 before peaking at 28,800 in 2017. In 2022, the employment level was 16,000 and is projected to decrease to 14,400 by 2025.

Program enrolments in Agriculture-related qualifications decreased over the five year trend, between 2017 and 2021, from approximately 45,200 to 37,290 respectively. Over the same time period program completions fluctuated, with overall numbers decreasing from approximately 12,450 in 2017 to 10,040 in 2021.

Industry insights on skills needs

 

According to the final industry skills forecast, Agriculture, Horticulture, Conservation and Land Management IRC’s Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work 2019-2022, the top generic skills for Agriculture are:

  • Learning agility/ information literacy/ intellectual autonomy and self-management (adaptability)
  • Managerial/leadership
  • Financial
  • Technology
  • Science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) skills.

Job vacancy demand data for this industry indicates that the top generic skill in demand by employers were communication, detail-orientated, organisational, planning and problem-solving skills. The top occupation in demand was Mixed Crop and Livestock Farm Workers.

The Agriculture and Horticulture industries experienced significant disruption in 2020 associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, drought, bushfires and trade issues on workforce development, according to the Agriculture, Horticulture, Conservation and Land Management IRC’s 2021 Skills Forecast.

As such, the 2021 Skills Forecast outlined additional and emerging trends to those identified in the 2020 Skills Forecast. These included: the impacts of COVID-19; attracting and skilling new industry workers; the National Agricultural Workforce Strategy; creating jobs and environmental benefits; and export and trade relations. Separately, in late 2021 the Fair Work Commission ruled pieceworkers under the Horticulture Award must be guaranteed a minimum wage. The changes to the Horticulture Award came into effect from late April 2022.

Impacts of COVID-19

As a result of COVID-19, the business-as-usual approach was reviewed, and new considerations were introduced within the business model to accommodate social distancing, smaller crews, and better hygiene protocols.

Further, COVID-19 highlighted the importance of food security and the associated roles of Australia’s rural industries and supply chains. In a ‘normal’ year, more than 40% of farmers have reported labour shortages during peak times, such as harvest. The IRC’s 2021 Skills Forecast noted there were concerns that production costs could grow or, worse, limit harvest outputs.

Due to the closure of state, territory and international borders, the effectiveness of workforce assistance programs, such as the Australian Government’s Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Programme were negatively impacted. Employers reported they were struggling to fill many available positions, and there was an urgent need to replace backpacker, seasonal and visa workforces in entry-level roles. However, the urgency to fill entry-level roles would need to be balanced with protecting Australian agriculture industries from the risks associated with the rapid deployment of new workers. Retaining and replacing workers with experience in mentoring and leadership also proved a challenge, particularly as COVID-19 accelerated the rate of people exiting industries, leaving fewer workers to help develop the next generation.

Attracting and skilling new industry workers

Strategies to draw entrants to agriculture-related industries rely on the industries’ attractiveness, the removal of barriers to labour mobility, and the availability of effective workforce training. Research conducted with young people found the appeal of the sector was low due to a misunderstanding of what careers in agriculture offer. Similar challenges are likely to be experienced with attracting displaced workers from other industries. To address these issues, initiatives have been implemented, such as Regional Australia Institute’s Regional Jobs Vacancy Map. Australian Pork Limited has recommended the reframing of Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) and public understandings of the breadth of industry roles.

As well as highlighting reskilling and upskilling options for improving the prospects of people already performing an industry role, the National Skills Commission (NSC) is promoting ‘skills transferability’, according to the IRC’s 2021 Skills Forecast. Skills transferability facilitates clearer pathways between roles in diverse industries that require similar capabilities. The Agriculture and Production Horticulture IRC notes that while skills transferability is an important goal, the role of vocational education and training is to help potential workers reach competency and be job ready. This requires the skills to do specific jobs on farms in a safe and effective manner. This, the IRC reports, cannot be achieved only through the training of generic, broad skills.

National Agricultural Workforce Strategy

The aim of the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy is to ensure farmers have access to fit-for-purpose workforce into the future. It includes 37 recommendations to modernise agriculture’s image, attract and keep workers, embrace innovation, build skills for modern agriculture and to treat workers ethically. The Australian Government released its Roadmap to attract, retain, upskill and modernise the agriculture workforce at the same time as the Strategy and later released its Response to the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy.

Creating jobs and environmental benefits

The $500 million Land Restoration Fund aimed to expand carbon farming in Queensland by supporting land-sector projects that deliver environmental, social and economic benefits, according to the IRC’s 2021 Skills Forecast. Funded by the Queensland Government, the first round of projects was expected to create 690 jobs for occupations such as graziers, Indigenous Rangers and fire managers.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development developed Climate-ready Agriculture in Western Australia, information and technical support for farm business managers and industry managers for making incremental, transitional and transformative changes across broadacre cropping, broadacre livestock production, horticulture, pastoral industry and for soil and water resources.

Creating jobs and environmental benefits

The $500 million Land Restoration Fund aims to expand carbon farming in Queensland by supporting land-sector projects that deliver environmental, social and economic benefits, according to the IRC’s 2021 Skills Forecast. Funded by the Queensland Government, the first round of projects are expected to create 690 jobs for occupations such as graziers, Indigenous Rangers and fire managers.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has developed Climate-ready Agriculture in Western Australia, information and technical support for farm business managers and industry managers for making incremental, transitional and transformative changes. A general guide is available for each enterprise broadacre cropping, broadacre livestock production, horticulture, pastoral industry and for soil and water resources.

Export and trade relations

Australian agricultural exports have faced several challenges over recent years including drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and disruptions to regular trade flows for some commodities into the Chinese market. However, many businesses sought alternative markets for their projects and reported increased market activity. This diversification has enabled some sectors’ relative recovery and reduced the risk of over-relying on any one market.

Links and resources

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

IRC and skills forecasts

Relevant research

Climate-ready Agriculture in Western Australia – Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

Horticulture Award Changes Start Today – Fair Work Ombudsman (media release)

National Agriculture Workforce Strategy – Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Agribusiness Australia

AgriFutures Australia

Almond Board of Australia

Animal Health Australia

Apple and Pear Australia Limited

Arboriculture Australia

Australian 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 Shippers Association

Australian Custom Harvesters

Australian Dairy Farmers

Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (DataGene)

Australian Dairy Industry Council

Australian Eggs Limited

Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association Ltd

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 Association

Australian Pig Breeders 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

AUSVEG

Avocados Australia Ltd

AWTA Limited (Australian Wool Testing Authority)

Barley Australia

Bean Growers Australia

Canegrowers

Cattle Council of Australia

Cherry Growers Australia Inc.

Chestnuts Australia Inc.

Citrus Australia

Cotton Australia

Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC)

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

Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand Inc

Farm Biosecurity

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

Honey Packers & Marketers Associations

Horticulture Innovation Australia

Hydroponic Farmers Federation

Institute of Australian Consulting Arboriculturists

Institute of Australian Geographers

Irrigation Australia

LiveCorp

Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association (LBRCA)

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

Orana Foundation

Organic Industries of Australia

Passionfruit Australia Inc

Persimmons Australia Inc

Pistachio Growers’ Association Inc

Plant Health Australia

Potato Processing Association of Australia

PrimeSafe

Protected Cropping Australia

Pulse Australia

Raspberries and Blackberries Australia

Regional Australia Institute

Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia

Rural Skills Australia

Shearing Contractors’ Association of Australia

Sheep Producers Australia

South Australian Wine Industry Association

Soy Australia

Strawberries Australia Inc

Summerfruit Australia Limited

Sustainable Gardening Australia

The Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network

The Wine Grape Council of SA (WGCSA)

Utility Arborist Association Australia

Wine Australia

Wool Producers Australia

 

Employee Associations

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Industry Employment Projections viewed 1 August 2021, Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 2 and 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2025
    • 01 Agriculture
    • 052 Agriculture and Fishing Support Services.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2022. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2022

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 2 and 3 digit Industry, 2002 to 2022, 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 from the following training package:

  • AHC – Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Lightcast 2022, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Boston, viewed August 2022, https://lightcast.io/apac.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills and occupations according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2019 and June 2022 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • 01 Agriculture.
Updated: 24 Nov 2022
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