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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

Employment levels in the Agriculture industry have declined over the trend between 2001 and 2021, from a peak of 372,100 in 2002 to a low of approximately 252,500 in 2017. In 2021, the employment level was 265,000.  

Employment levels in Agriculture and Fishing Support Services have fluctuated between 2001 and 2021, declined to a low of 15,800 in 2016 before reaching a peak of 28,800 in 2017. In 2021, the employment level was 19,500.

Projections to 2025 indicate employment levels will grow in the Agriculture industry to 315,800 and decline for Agriculture and Fishing Support Services to 14,400.

Program enrolments in Agriculture-related qualifications decreased between 2016 and 2020, most sharply between 2017 and 2018, from 45,240 to 35,420 respectively. In 2020, program enrolments reached 33,440. Program completions have fluctuated, particularly between 2017 and 2018 when completions decreased by 23%, from approximately 12,440 to 9,640. In 2020, there were approximately 8,930 program completions in Agriculture related qualifications.

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the 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 skills in demand by employers were communication skills, detail-orientated, physical demand, planning and organisational skills . The top occupation in demand was Mixed Crop and Livestock Farm Workers.

The Agriculture and Horticulture industries have experienced significant disruption over the last year as they continue to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19, 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 outlines additional and emerging trends to those identified in the 2020 Skills Forecast, including: the impacts of COVID-19; attracting and skilling new industry workers; the National Agricultural Workforce Strategy and Ag2030 Plan; creating jobs and environmental benefits; and export and trade relations.  Separately, a change to pay farm workers a base or minimum wage may impact some employers who employ workers under the Horticulture Award.

Impacts of COVID-19

COVID-19 has disrupted every sector of the Australian agriculture, particularly horticulture industries according to the IRC’s 2021 Skills Forecast. It has also emphasised 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 report labour shortages during peak times, such as harvest. Agricultural forecasts and outlook - June quarter 2021 reports that consumer prices for fruit and vegetables have not recorded large price increases, despite labour shortages. However, the IRC’s 2021 Skills Forecast notes there are concerns that production costs could grow or, worse, limit harvest outputs.

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.

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 are being negatively impacted. Employers have and continue to struggle to fill many available positions, and there is an urgent need to replace backpacker, seasonal and visa workforces in entry-level roles. This will need to be balanced with protecting Australian agriculture industries from the risks associated with the rapid deployment of new workers. It has also been very challenging retaining and replacing workers with experience in mentoring and leadership, particularly as COVID-19 has 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 rely on the attractiveness of the agriculture-related industries, 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 and Ag2030 Plan

The aim of the Strategy is 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. It also supports the delivery of the Ag2030 Plan, which positions Australia’s farmers, fishers and foresters to recover from COVID-19 and build toward the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) vision for a $100 billion industry by 2030. The Australian Government released its Roadmap to attract, retain, upskill and modernise the agriculture workforce to guide consideration of the Strategy’s findings and recommendations.

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 a number of challenges over recent years including drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and disruptions to regular trade flows for some commodities into the Chinese market. As China has been Australia’s largest market for a number of commodities, there were concerns that commodities in Australia were causing surpluses and depressing market prices. However, many businesses have sought alternative markets for their projects and have reported increased market activity. This diversification has enabled some sectors’ relative recovery and reduced the risk of over-relying on any one market.

Change to Horticulture Award

In early November 2021, the Fair Work Commission ruled to vary the Horticulture Award (clause 15.2) which deals with pieceworker rates and introduce a minimum wage floor. The Commission stated in its Summary of Decision the introduction of the minimum wage will provide, among other consequences, the incentive to reduce unproductive workers, thereby increasing productivity. Further, should the introduction of the minimum wage demotivate some underperforming employees and reduce productivity - such underperformance could be managed, for example by setting proficiency targets.

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

Agricultural forecasts and outlook – June quarter 2021 – Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Agribusiness Australia

AgriFutures Australia

Almond Board of Australia

Animal Health Australia

Apple and Pear Australia Limited

Arboriculture Australia

Australasian Alpaca Breeders Association

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 Federation 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, Employment Projections, available from the 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 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 2 and 3 digit Industry, 2001 to 2021, 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 Burning Glass Technologies 2021, Labour Insight Real-time Labour Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2021, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills and occupations according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2018 and June 2021 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • 01 Agriculture
Updated: 15 Dec 2021
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