Australian fisheries and aquaculture sector sees modest growth amidst export challenges

Despite short-term challenges, the mid-term outlook is bright for Australian aquaculture, projecting a 5% increase in value to AUS $2.21 billion by 2028-29, according to new government analysis.
Oyster farms on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia.

Oyster farms on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia.

Photo: Adobe Stock.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has recently unveiled its latest forecast for the country's seafood sector, projecting a modest increase in the gross value of Australian fisheries and aquaculture production this year.

The figures are set to rise by 0.5% in the 2023-24 fiscal year, reaching an estimated AUS $3.56 billion.

Dr. Jared Greenville, ABARES Executive Director, attributed this growth primarily to an uptick in the prices of wild-caught rock lobster and enhanced production volumes across various aquaculture species, including tuna, abalone, and oysters.

“Prices for salmonids, prawns, abalone and tuna are all expected to ease over this period but higher production volumes, servicing predominantly domestic consumers, will support further growth of the aquaculture sector," Greenville said in a press release announcing the report.

ABARES anticipates Australian aquaculture's value to climb by 5% in real terms by 2028-29, reaching AUS $2.21 billion and representing 64% of the total seafood production value. This growth is driven by expected production rises in various aquaculture species, with salmonid production playing a pivotal role.

Mid-term outlook: softening prices but aquaculture set to grow to 64% of total seafood value

The sector is bracing for softened real average prices over the next five years, attributed to an expanding global supply and the strengthening of the Australian dollar.

Despite the nominal growth during the 2023-24 fiscal year, the real value of Australian fisheries and aquaculture production is projected to stabilize in the mid-term, averaging around AUS $3.48 billion from 2024-25 to 2028-29.

However, ABARES anticipates a promising future for aquaculture. “The value of aquaculture is projected to increase by 5% in real terms to AUS $2.21 billion by 2028–29 which will see it represent 64% of total seafood sector production value,” Greenville said.

Salmonids, prawns and tuna to boost overall production volumes by 4%

The salmonid category in particular has seen remarkable growth over the past two decades, securing a 37% share of production in 2023-24.

Although global salmonid production expansion is exerting downward pressure on prices, ABARES anticipates moderate growth in Australian production, helping to mitigate declines in other significant commodities like rock lobster and abalone, which are facing reduced real prices.

Overall, seafood production volumes are projected to rise by around 4% over the medium term, reaching 307,000 tonnes by 2028–29 — mainly due to growth in salmonids and prawn aquaculture, plus increased tuna production.

Australia's export market for seafood predicted to remain "challenging and uncertain"

However, while domestic markets show promising signs for aquaculture, the export scenario remains less favourable.

The seafood sector as a whole is expected to witness a 2% dip in export value to AUS $1.43 billion in 2023-24.

Australian seafood's international competitiveness is projected to wane, with a gradual 2% annual decrease in export value predicted, declining to AUS $1.23 billion by 2028-29.

“Conditions remain challenging and uncertain for Australian seafood exports," Greenville said.

"Not only are we seeing price falls, but climate change remains a significant uncertainty for the outlook because of the potential long-term impacts on global seafood production and trade.”

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