Aquaculture value rose 17.1% in Queensland driven by prawn sector

According to the latest Ross Lobegeiger Report 2022-23, the industry’s overall value has increased at a rate of 7.8% per year since 1999-2000.
Fresh black tiger prawn and banana prawn.

Black tiger and banana are the two species produced in the Queensland marine prawn industry. The sector experienced a 12.6% increase in production in 2022-23.

Photo: Adobe Stock.

The total value of the Queensland (Australia) aquaculture industry increased by 17.1% in 2022-23. So says the 'Ross Lobegeiger report to farmers, Aquaculture production summary for Queensland 2022-23' released by the Queensland Government last week.

This growth of more than 17% translates into a production value of AUD 263.2 million (EUR 161.1 million / USD 175.5 million) compared to AUD 224.7 million (EUR 137.6 million / USD 149.83 million) in the 2021-22 period. The new figure, which represents an increase of AUD 38.5 million (EUR 23.5 million / USD 25.6 million), also sets a new record for the value of aquaculture in the Australian state.

Continuous increase in value over the last 24 years

At the time of the report's publication, the total value of fish production in Queensland for 2022-23 was not available, so it was not possible to compare the value of aquaculture production with that total.

Something similar occurred last year, however, to provide an idea of the evolution of the aquaculture versus fisheries sector, the Ross Lobegeiger report compared then the 2021-22 aquaculture production figures with the 2020-21 total value of Queensland fishseries production. Even with that comparison, the relative importance of aquaculture in Queensland's total fisheries production had increased from 55.3% in 2020-21 to 64.2% in 2021-22.

Somewhat in line with what is happening across the country, where, according to the latest edition of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Australian Fisheries and Aquaculture Statistics, aquaculture stood out within the Australian seafood industry, surpassing the value of the wild catch by 2021-22.

In any case, as can be seen in the graph included in the annual Ross Lobegeiger report (below), the trend of the aquaculture industry in Queensland during the last five years is one of constant growth:

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Aquaculture production in Queensland from 2016-17 to 2022-23.</p></div>

Aquaculture production in Queensland over the past seven years, from 2016-17 to 2022-23.

Image: Queensland Government.

Thus, although the report acknowledges that there will always be some degree of fluctuation between years - due, for example, to weather issues -, there is still a clear trend that the overall value of the industry has been increasing, on average, at a rate of 7.8% per year since 1999-2000.

The prawn sector, leading the way

Production statistics provided by the Ross Lobegeiger annual report come from all sectors of the Queensland aquaculture industry, including prawn, barramundi, freshwater, redclaw crayfish, hatchery and aquarium, and oyster. For the 2022-23 financial year, 387 producers of the 397 aquaculture permit holders currently registered in the Australian state completed the production survey, this is a response rate of 97%.

Once again this year, prawn and barramundi remain the most valuable sectors of the Queensland aquaculture industry, however, in the face of strong growth in prawn, the barramundi sector recorded a decline in both volumes and value from the previous year.

In 2022-23, Queensland's marine prawn industry - which produces two species of prawn, black tiger and banana - experienced a 12.6% increase in production, from 8727.5 tons in 2021-22 to 9825.5 tons in 2022-23. Meanwhile, the total value of the sector increased by AUD 45.8 million (EUR 28 million / USD 30.54 million), from AUD 167.1 million (EUR 102.4 million / USD 111.4 million) in 2021-22 to AUD 212.9 million (EUR 130.4 million / USD 141.9 million) in 2022-23.

Against these figures, barramundi production decreased by 16.9%, from 3991.6 tons sold in 2021-22 to 3315.3 tons sold in 2022-23. The value of the sector decreased by 21.4%, from AUD 46.3 million (EUR 28.3 million / USD 30.8 million) in 2021-22 to AUD 36.4 million (EUR 22.3 million / USD 24.2 million) in 2022-23, that is AUD 9.9 million (EUR 6 million / USD 6.6 million) less than last year.

Regarding the other sectors/species, the freshwater fish grow-out sector (species other than barramundi) - which produced silver perch, jade perch, and Murray cod - increased in both volumes and value, even though the number of producing farms decreased to 10 from the 14 recorded in 2021-22.

As for farmed shellfish, production of the redclaw crayfish decreased by 30.9%, which also decreased the value of this sector. In contrast, total edible oyster production increased by 54.8%, also increasing its value.

Finally, the Ross Lobegeiger report also collects data on the hatchery and aquarium sector, which includes producers who grow ornamental aquarium species and native fish fingerlings for commercial grow-out (aquaculture) and stocking in public impoundments. In 2022-23, a total of 7.9 million fish were sold and the total value of the sector increased. However, the value of fingerlings sold to the aquaculture sector for commercial grow-out was AUD 2.9 million (EUR 1.7 million / USD 1.9 million), which is a decrease in sales compared to 2021-222, which was AUD 3 million (EUR 1.8 million / USD 2 million).

One of the fastest-growing primary industries

As mentioned above, the 'Ross Lobegeiger report to farmers, Aquaculture production summary for Queensland 2022–23' is published annually by the Queensland Government, which also assessed the results, highlighting that its "strong support for aquaculture is paying dividends for North Queensland, with Mackay’s prawn industry leading the way."

The Australian Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities, Mark Furner, also spoke in the same vein. "The Queensland Government’s support for the aquaculture industry has helped to make it one of Queensland‘s fastest-growing primary industries, with a surge in jobs and investment over the last five years, particularly in regional areas," he said.

"We have seen strong growth in the prawn, freshwater, oyster and aquarium sectors with an impressive increase in production values," he continued. "Mackay, Cairns, the Gold Coast, and Townsville remain the primary contributors to the industry's overall value and production."

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Visual map of aquaculture's value in Queensland, broken down by statistical division from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.</p></div>

Visual map of aquaculture's value in Queensland, broken down by statistical division from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Cairns, Gold Coast, and Mackay account for most of the production.

Image: Queensland Government.

As Minister Furner commented, the majority of the industry's value comes from the statistical divisions of Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, and Gold Coast. Mackay, in particular, stands out as the area with the largest sector. Its prawn industry experienced an AUD 45.8 million (EUR 28 million / USD 30.5 million) growth in 2022-23, rising from AUD 116.3 million (EUR 71.3 million / USD 77.5 million) in 2021-22 to AUD 160.7 million (EUR 98.5 million / USD 107.1 million) in 2022-23.

The combined Queensland aquaculture industry employed 854.8 FTEs (Full-Time Equivalent) employees in 2022-23, calculated by combining permanent and casual labor numbers. This is a decrease of 34 FTEs, or 3.8% less, than in the previous year, when 889 FTEs employees got jobs. This year, the prawn farming sector was again the top performer, being the largest employer at 621.4 FTE workers, accounting for 72.7% of the industry's total labor force.

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