The grain industry plays a huge role in Australia’s economy. Over 22 million hectares of its land are dedicated to commercial grain crops annually. It is a big business nationally, but it is an even bigger business internationally as Australia acts as one of the top exporters of grains to overseas markets. The interest in the Australian agriculture is international as the land is 62.7% privately owned by multinational corporations. The remainder is left to the local farms. The typical local farm is family-owned with 8.000 to 15.000 hectares.
There are over 120.000 local farms that focus on the production of winter and summer crops. However, the weather and soil conditions are king in Australia, and they dictate most of the rules in terms of type of crop and plant/harvest period.
Delving into the main types of grains produced in Australia and the regions that produce these crops, here we go!
By far the most produced and exported grain by tonnage and value. It makes up 65% of the annual grain production. Wheat production is a $2-$3 billion business for Australia.
Western Australia, the so known WA Wheatbelt region, is where most of wheat production occurs. It spans over 7 million hectares in land across the south-west corner of the state. There are around 4.200 farms located in the region that produce white grained wheat varieties, low in moisture and discolouration, that generate white wheat flour and a high flour milling yield.
The wheat milling grades in WA are –
- Australian Hard (AH) – 12 % protein
- Australian Premium White (APW) – 10.5 % protein
- Australian-Standard White (ASW) – 9-10.5% protein
- Australian Standard Noodle Wheat (ANW) – 9.5 – 11.5 % protein
- Australian Premium White Noodle (APWN) – 10.5 – 11.5 % protein
- Australian Soft – <9.5 % protein
The wheat produced in WA is mainly used in bread and Asian products like noodles.
The nutritional value of wheat per 100 grams (can range based on type of wheat as well as weather/soil conditions) –
|Protein: 13.2 grams|
|Carbs: 72 grams|
|Sugar: 0.4 grams|
|Fiber: 10.7 grams|
|Fat: 2.5 grams|
The 2nd most produced and exported grain in Australia with a production of over 9 million tonnes per year. Over 4 million hectares of land are dedicated to the production of barley crops and over 30% of the annual harvest achieves malting grade.
Unlike wheat, barley is produced all across Australia with the biggest production area also located in the Western Australia (over 3 million hectares), followed by South Australia (over 2 million hectares), New South Wales (almost 2 million hectares), Victoria (almost 2 million hectares), Queensland (over 200.000 hectares), Tasmania (almost 20.000 hectares).
The following types of barley are produced in Australia –
Malting grade –
- La Trobe
- Scope CL
Feed grade –
The grain produced is low in moisture and has a long storage viability which is why it is widely used in the malting, shochu, distilling, brewing and feed industries.
The nutritional value of barley per 100 grams (can range based on type of barley as well as weather/soil conditions) –
|Carbs: 73.5 grams|
|Fiber: 17.3 grams|
|Protein: 12.5 grams|
|Fat: 2.3 grams|
Australia produces almost 1.5 million hectares of oats annually, mostly for export to overseas markets. Due to the suitable climatic conditions, hulled oats are produced to a larger extent in the Western Australia spanning almost 700.000 hectares of land dedicated to oat crops, followed by New South Wales with almost 350.000 ha, Victoria with almost 250.000 ha, South Australia with 100.000 ha, Queensland with 26.000 ha and Tasmania with 6 ha.
The Australian oats are bright, low in moisture and highly nutritious. There are two main types of oats classed as either for milling and to a lesser degree for feed purposes.
Based on their classification (milling class), oats need to meet the following criteria –
- Have a high hectolitre weight
- Low moisture
- High groat percentage
- High milling yield
- A high level of beta-glucan
- A good percentage of protein ranging from 9 to 12 %
The nutritional value of oats per 100 grams (can range based on type of oats as well as weather/soil conditions) –
|Protein: 16.9 grams|
|Carbs: 66.3 grams|
|Sugar: 0 grams|
|Fiber: 10.6 grams|
|Fat: 6.9 grams|
Rice is a summer crop and it is not grown everywhere in Australia. The production mostly occurs in South Australia, in the established irrigation systems in the Murray valleys of South New South Wales as well as the Murrumbidgee region. Its annual production averages 600.000 – 800.000 tonnes and can reach up to 1.2 million tonnes based on the annual irrigation water allocations. When there’s no water, there’s no rice. Over 80% of the annual harvest is exported to the Middle East and Asian countries. To a smaller degree, rice production also takes place in the Lachlan Valley, Murrumbidgee floodplains and the Northern Rivers in the New South Wales, as well as in the floodplains of North Victoria.
The rice production in Australia uses less water than normally. The predominant type is temperate Japonica varieties (80%). Indica and fragrant varieties can be found to a lesser degree in smaller production areas. Shorter grain Koshihikari rice is produced in small amounts specifically for export purposes to Japan.
The nutritional value of rice per 100 grams (can range based on type of rice as well as weather/soil conditions) –
|• Calories: 130|
|• Water: 68.44 g|
|• Protein: 2.36 grams|
|• Carbs: 28.7 grams|
|• Sugar: 2.4 grams to 0 grams|
|• Fiber: 2.5 grams|
|• Fat: 0.19 grams|
The sweet corn or maize industry in Australia is becoming more and more interesting because it grows quickly and the farming operations can be mechanised. The average production is about 500.000 tonnes annually. Corn is produced all over Australia, however bigger crop areas are located in the eastern zone. Since Australia is the driest nation in the world, constant droughts affect the production. The biggest areas of production include central Queensland, the Riverina, Darling Downs and Liverpool Plains. Dryland corn crops grow mostly in northern NSW and Gippsland in Victoria.
Australia’s corn is mostly used in the processing industry and less for feed purposes.
The nutritional value of rice per 100 grams (can range based on type of corn as well as weather/soil conditions) –
|Protein: 3.4 grams|
|Carbs: 21 grams|
|Sugar: 21.32 grams to4.5 grams|
|Fiber: 2.4 grams|
|Fat: 1.5 grams|
The average sorghum production is about 1.5 million tonnes per year. Sorghum is a highly drought-tolerant crop, however, the drought in the 2019 decreased the harvest drastically to around 300.000 tonnes. The largest dryland summer crop areas are located in the northern zones. More than 60% of the total production occurs in Queensland (more than 470.000 ha) with the remainder left to the northern New South Wales (around 170.000 ha).
Australia sorghum grains are higher in starch content than sweet sorghum and are used extensively in the beef, poultry, pig and dairy industry.
The nutritional value of sorghum per 100 grams (can range based on type of sorghum as well as weather/soil conditions) –
|Protein: 10 grams|
|Fat: 3 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 69 grams|
|Fiber: 6 grams|
Rye production in Australia, as well as globally, has decreased significantly. Currently, the Australian rye area sown is around 8.000-9.000 ha of land. The domestic consumption stands at 25.000 tonnes per year. Due to a slight increase in demand, Australia imports around 10.000 tonnes per year to guarantee the supply.
Rye grain is mostly produced in the Southern Australia in the Victoria Mallee region with its principal use being the stabilisation of drifting soils and grazing. Locally, rye is mostly used in mixed grain breads where fibre is more required.
The nutritional value of rye per 100 grams –
|Protein: 2.7 grams|
|Carbs: 15.5 grams|
|Fat: 1.1 grams|
|Fiber: 1.9 grams|
Long a forgotten crop, millet makes a comeback onto the Australian market. Highly regarded as a cover crop against herbicide-resistant weeds, the average crop production is at 20.000 – 30.000 tonnes per year. However, millet production has also been impacted by the recent droughts. Millet grain is mostly grown in Queensland’s Darling Downs region though more crop areas appear in NSW, Victoria and WA.
The nutritional value of millet per 100 grams –
|Carbs: 41 grams|
|Fiber: 2.2 grams|
|Protein: 6 grams|
|Fat: 1.7 grams|