The gross value of vegetable production increased by five per cent in the 2017-18 financial year reaching $4.1 billion, according to a new report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences and funded by Hort Innovation.
The growth was predominately attributed to an increase in tomatoes, potatoes and mushrooms, as part of 35 crops contributing to agriculture industry production.
Potatoes had the highest gross value of production, contributing $619 million or 15 per cent of the total value of vegetables, followed by tomatoes ($568 million), mushrooms ($384 million), carrots ($247 million) and onions ($224 million).
Hort Innovation head of data and insights Adam Briggs said Australian vegetable growers faced several challenges, such as the high cost of production, market fragmentation and evolving consumer expectations.
“Many farms occasionally record negative farm business profit due to income fluctuation; this is primarily due to the farm not recovering the cost of unpaid family labour or setting aside funds to replace depreciating farm assets,” Mr Briggs said.
“This negative profit affects the long-term viability of the farm in that it has a reduced capacity to invest in newer and more efficient technologies.”
Vegetable production was ranked as the sixth highest in agricultural value in Australia.
The average rate of return (excluding capital appreciation) of Australian vegetable-growing farms is estimated to have remained steady at 3.9 per cent in 2018–19.
Mr Briggs said small vegetable-growing farms (less than five hectares of vegetable plantings) accounted for 12 per cent of the overall gross value of vegetable production.
“And in 2017–18, vegetable-growing farms that received more than 50 per cent of their total vegetable receipts by selling directly to retailers such as Coles or Woolworths were mostly small farms,” he said.
“We are seeing a great deal of resilience from the entire industry but in particular, the smaller farms who are working with substantially less capital and fewer resources while still making a huge contribution to our national bottom line.”
View the full research report at: www.agriculture.gov.au/abares