Snapshot of returns from agriculture reveal cotton is king

Cotton is the big money spinner in a good season but most growers are content with tending cattle and growing wheat to earn $13.1 billion from cattle and $6.2 billion from wheat each year

There are plenty of cotton field songs and movie plots to capture your imagination, along with slaves tolling under a hot sun. And while it’s a crop that many wouldn’t bother to contemplate it does have in its favour the title of the most profitable crop per tonne produced and per hectare sown in our paddocks. While sugar cane takes the prize for the highest yielding from each hectare planted.

And while these two crops are adorned with commendable results most growers are fixated on the two top commodities that rushed us to record gross value farm production of $63 billion in 2016-17. A tally many will level as a benchmark for future production.

The top two commodities by gross value of production in 2015-16, were beef and veal (cattle and calves) at $13.1 billion, and wheat at $6.2 billion.

For horticulture, grapes had the highest gross value of production, while almonds were the most profitable per tonne produced, and potatoes had the highest yield per hectare in 2015-16.

Agriculture covers 58 per cent of Australia’s land mass of 768,100ha. The largest agricultural land use is grazing of native vegetation at 45 per cent, while cropping only represents 4 per cent of the total land mass.

Agricultural products accounted for 15 per cent of Australia’s total exports in 2015-16, with the top five export destinations being China, United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Indonesia.

While the top five commodities exported by value were beef and veal, wheat, wool, dairy and wine.