Almost one third of Tasmania’s land area (68,300 sq km) is consigned to agriculture. Our pristine environment, reputation for high quality, a mild climate with four distinct seasons, high quality water, fertile soils, isolation and clean atmosphere provide Tasmania with an advantage to produce pure, high quality products, in a sustainable manner.
by Carol Haberle
An increasing demand for all things grown and produced in Tasmania, has seen Tasmania’s brand for fine food and wine creating significant overseas and interstate export marketing opportunities, and today agriculture is a major industry in the state.
Also a major contributor to Tasmania’s economy, agricultural activities fall into five main areas:
Traditional Mixed Farming: Broad Acre Cropping
This includes poppies and pyrethrum, wool and livestock production. Tasmania is also well known for the excellence of superfine wool produced mainly from Saxon Merino sheep on grazing properties in lower rainfall districts. Tasmanian wool continues to set world record prices at auction. Beef, lamb, venison and other meats are firmly established in niche markets around the world, especially where quality is more important than price.
The poppy industry is a major financial contributor to Tasmania’s economy. The area sown to poppies (Papaver somniferum) is in excess of 20,000 hectares of land. Each hectare produces around 2.4 to 2.5 tonnes of poppy heads. It provides 40% of the US market’s legal opiate supply in the form of codeine, thebaine (also known as Paramorphine) and other variants. Other pharmaceutical chemicals are derived and sent to other countries such as the United Kingdom.
Pyrethrum (Tanacetum cinerariifolium) is an important crop on the north west coast, and is grown under contract to Botanical Resources Australia (BRA) to supply the natural insecticide market. BRA has a processing plant at Ulverstone Tasmania, where pyrethrum oil from the daisy crop is processed into pellets for export, primarily to the United States. There are currently over 2,000 hectares of pyrethrum grown in Tasmania, mostly on the north west coast in close proximity to the processing facility, and where the soils and growing conditions are well suited to the crop.
Tasmania’s temperate climate, fertile soils, reliable rainfall and sunshine all account for excellent growing conditions for lush pasture, needed for the production of premium quality dairy products. Tasmanian dairy cows are housed outside all year round grazing on grass and clover while enjoying some of the cleanest air in the world. The dairy industry is the largest sector of our agricultural industry in Tasmania and is a significant contributor to the Tasmanian economy.
Fruit and Vegetable Production
Tasmania has a large fruit industry, with apples, pears, apricots and cherries being the most common fruits grown here. Tasmania was once known as ‘The Apple Isle’, with a world-wide reputation of growing the best apples. The bulk of Tasmania’s apples are now grown in the Huon district (83%) south of Hobart, while the remainder are produced in the Spreyton (10%) and Tamar (7%) districts. Between 30 and 35% of the total crop is exported overseas.
Another 20-25% is sold interstate (mainly Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne), while a further 15% of the crop is consumed in Tasmania. The remainder is used for processing. Tasmanian apple growers are world leaders in minimising the use of chemicals. Tasmania accounts for about 10 per cent of Australia’s vegetable exports. Potatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, green peas, green beans and cauliflowers are the major vegetable crops. Barley, wheat and oats lead grain production.
Viticulture (Cultivation of Grapes) and Hops
Tasmania’s climate is ideal for growing cool-climate grape varieties like Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc, with some smaller plantings of Riesling, Pinot gris and Cabernet Sauvignon. Located at a more southerly latitude than the rest of Australia’s wine regions, Tasmania has a cooler climate and the potential to make distinctly different wines than in the rest of the country.
In recent years, the gross value of agriculture production has increased greatly, with strong growth in vegetables and livestock.
Tasmania has a growing reputation for the innovative approach to agricultural production, with new markets and opportunities including the recent development of the olive, walnut and truffles industries. Compared to mainland Australia, we have a relatively late ripening season and this gives us the ability to capture the late end of markets in the southern hemisphere. Due to our geographic location primary producers can export fresh produce to Northern Hemisphere markets when local produce is out-of-season. Tasmania’s clean air, fertile soil, reliable rainfall and freedom from many pests and diseases give us the advantage for outstanding fruit and vegetable production. Tasmania is the only Australian state free from fruit fly, potato cyst nematode, tobacco blue mould, and many other major pests and diseases. The Tasmanian Government has placed a moratorium on the commercial production of genetically modified crops until 2014. Hormones and antibiotics are not used to promote growth in livestock.
Tasmania has many premier dining experiences and award-winning restaurants which showcase the fine food and wine it produces for local enjoyment, as well as for export markets. Tasmania is fast developing a reputation for its produce with meat and smallgoods, wine, beer, cheese, berries, fruit and vegetables the mainstay of the food and beverage sector.
Tasmania is a ‘natural larder’ with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils which give rise to the production of over 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as milk powders, butter and other dairy products. Tasmania also produces beef, wool, premium beers, leatherwood honey (amongst many more varieties), mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berries and stone fruits, apples, vegetables, award-winning cool-climate wines and so, so much more.
All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography. You can follow Carol on Facebook at Haberle Photo Cards. Carol writes feature articles for us about all things Tasmanian. If you’d like Carol to visit you, please contact Think Tasmania.