South Australia’s Food Exports – Sharing Flavors With the World

With an enviable reputation for food safety, South Australia produces and exports premium food products around the world. PIRSA’s food industry provides the backbone of the State economy, employing 47,000 people.

South Australian meat producers and agribusinesses are well placed to capitalise on rising demand from Asia as middle class incomes rise.


South Australia is home to more than half of the nation’s vineyards and its wines are prized around the world, especially powerful red wines made from Shiraz. Cabernet Sauvignon and other European varieties — including Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Montepulciano — also do well here, especially in the renowned wine regions of Coonawarra, Padthaway and Robe.

Australia’s grain crops are a major industry, and South Australian farmers produce and export large volumes of wheat, barley, oats, triticale, chickpeas, peas, lupins, vetch and canola. The state is also a major supplier of malting barley for brewing and oats for hay for livestock feeding.

Grain production is boosted by abundant rainfall and high-quality soils. The state’s proximity to Asian markets, its low operating costs and favourable shipping conditions make it an attractive grain exporter.

The state’s aging fleet of ships has been replaced with more modern container vessels to handle high-value cargoes such as wheat, barley and pulses. South Australia’s shipping lines are well-positioned for accessing key ports in Japan, Korea and China.

Australian Grain Export Pty Ltd (AGE) purchases and sells a broad range of commodities, mostly through bulk terminals but largely in containers to markets worldwide. The company services most of the country’s grain growing areas, notably Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and is particularly active in the wheat and pulse industries where it has gained a reputation for excellence.


South Australia’s premium seafood comes from the pristine Southern Ocean fisheries which are sustainably managed by the state. Abalone, rock lobster and tuna are exported to Japan, China and other Asian markets.

Oysters are cultivated using several methods but most oyster farmers grow them in a system called rack culture. This involves placing the oysters in plastic baskets hung from wooden racks that lie parallel to the soft substrate below at low tide. Currently, the rack culture technique accounts for about 80 percent of South Australian oyster production.

Intensive cultivation of grapes, vegetables and orchard fruit (especially oranges) represents one-fifth of the state’s primary farm land area. This occurs in districts with varying soil quality and climate, from the hot summer irrigation areas along the Murray River to the cool-climate districts of the Barossa Valley and Mount Lofty Range.

South Australia has a highly skilled grain processing industry, with large family-owned breweries and mills producing cereals, wheat, barley, oats and flour products for domestic and international markets. The state is also home to several small grain food processors servicing local market demand.

All of South Australia’s grains are grown without the use of genetically modified crops. This advantage is a key selling point in the international marketplace and helps the state’s grains attract higher prices in North America, Asia and Europe. This strategy is complemented by South Australia’s world-class marketing and promotion activities, including the Brand Australia campaign.


South Australia’s red meat industries – beef, sheep and lamb – play an important role in the State’s economy. Providing $3.5 billion in production and processing revenue each year, as well as over $1.1 billion in exports, they make up almost 10% of the State’s total merchandise exports.

Increased global demand for high quality meat, higher consumer standards and heightened traceability expectations provide significant challenges for our livestock industry. To facilitate future growth, a series of industry specific strategic direction plans have been developed for each commodity.

The plans contain a range of actions including targeted market development, product and brand development and increased investment in research and development. As a result, the value of SA’s sheep and beef meat exports increased by 24 per cent and 13 per cent respectively in 2021-22.

As of today, major export costs will be eliminated for South Australian producers and businesses supplying the United Kingdom with goods like wine and fresh food through the historic Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (A-UKFTA). This will open up new opportunities to grow meat, seafood and other premium food and drink from the State to this valuable market. The A-UKFTA also offers a number of tariff quota opportunities that will be available to the industry over a 10-year period. These will be gradually expanded as the agreement matures. This will provide greater flexibility to respond to changes in market conditions, increasing our ability to compete in international markets.


South Australia’s grape-growing industry is world class, ranging from hot-summer irrigation districts along the Murray River to the rain-fed districts of the Barossa Valley and Clare and cool-climate regions of the Mount Lofty Range and southeast. Grapes alone make up one-sixth of the state’s primary farm commodities.

Winemakers are diversifying into new markets to overcome the impact of China’s tariffs on their exports. The United States is firming as a new opportunity, with the Malinauskas Labor Government co-funding 30 places in this year’s Wine Australia US Market Entry program, which will help producers build their expertise and connections in the key market.

Demand for South Australian food and beverage exports is picking up as trade ties with the state’s biggest market – China – recover from months of decline. The value of our second and third biggest export markets – the United States and Malaysia – have also rebounded, thanks to higher prices, good seasons and reduced global supply.

The South Australia Five Year Export Strategy aims to increase export sales of the State’s food and beverage products from $2 billion in 2021 to $3 billion by 2027. It can only be achieved by businesses working together, and with the support of the State and Australian governments. Achieving this will take an integrated approach with targeted investments in the following areas:


A blessed landscape, centuries of hard work and a commitment to innovation are putting South Australia on the global food map. From pioneer Hagen Stehr to culinary icons like Maggie Beer, a thriving food culture is woven into the fabric of life in this Australian state. Its produce is renowned the world over for its quality, and its cutting-edge biosecurity standards ensure that it remains pest free.

The result is a sustainable, world-class grain industry. South Australia’s premium grain products are exported to over a dozen countries including China, Japan and North America. The pristine environment also produces premium seafood, with tuna, rock lobster and abalone being sought after internationally. The state’s grains are used in a wide range of high-quality foods and beverages from beer and pasta to flour and oils.

The artisan cheesemakers are another example of the sector’s success. Their exports are driven by a willingness to innovate and tap into demand from new markets. This is exemplified by the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association (ASCA), which represents small-scale farmhouse artisan and specialty cheesemakers. Its communication officer, Sonia Cousins, explains that the group is growing rapidly because of increased consumer interest in natural, handmade, and unique cheeses. The group is planning to expand into the US, which has a high demand for cheese that’s not mass-produced. Among the new products to be launched are a lemon myrtle chevre, saltbush feta and a jet black cheese covered with ash from the aptly named Australian Blackwood tree.

Olive Oil

A blessed climate, centuries of hard work and a willing spirit to innovate have helped South Australia cement its place as one of the world’s most celebrated food and wine producers. Today, the state’s focus on premium produce is backed by a reputation for purity and cleanliness.

South Australian olive oil is exported worldwide. It is also a key ingredient in many of the world’s finest cuisines. At the prestigious Adelaide International Olive Oil Competition in 2021, South Australian olive oils scored highly with the judges describing them as “mellow, smooth and unctuous,” without the pungency of some imported brands.

The booming food and agriculture sector in South Australia employs one in five working people. It is globally recognised for its cutting-edge biosecurity standards and high-quality fresh produce sourced from pristine environments, free of pests and disease.

Taking advantage of the state’s many trade agreements, primary industries are investing in value-added products and international markets. The state has an exciting future ahead of it, with a clear focus on sustainable production and innovation. UniSA researchers are bringing their multidisciplinary expertise to bear, using science, engineering, psychology and nutrition to develop new ways to grow and deliver healthy foods. Their insights will help to ensure our food and drink sector thrives into the next decade and beyond.