The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed that the number of farmers and farm workers in the country is continuing to increase, and agricultural production is also continuing to climb.

The ABS has compiled a report on the sector during last year, and concluded that good prices and changes in agricultural activity, particularly horticultural, have encouraged more people to work in farming, as more are able to earn a living off the land. Total farm turnover was cited as A$28.5bn (US$14.07bn), and beef farms enjoyed the best turnaround in results for the year, as the number recording profit rather than loss increased dramatically.

During the 1980s and up to the mid-1990s, the number of farmers and workers dropped and only seven years ago 3,000 farms were bankrupted. Between 1996 and 2000 however the number of people employed by farms increased 6%, and while the number of operational farms fell by 241 during the period, there were still 20,000 more farms in 2000 compared to 1991.

The largest rural employers are still the mixed grain-sheep/beef farms, which account for 39% of total agricultural employment.

On a more negative note, however, the report found that the total debt owed by farmers had climbed 8% during the year to A$26.2bn. This means that while 20% of farms did not carry a debt in 2000, the average level of debt was A$252,000, up from A$237,000.