Con­fi­dence takes tum­ble in dry sea­son

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - KAROLIN MACGRE­GOR

A LACK of early spring rain has seen Tas­ma­nian farmer con­fi­dence dip to a 15-month low.

Re­sults from the lat­est Rabobank ru­ral con­fi­dence sur­vey show very dry con­di­tions in Oc­to­ber had a big im­pact on farmer sen­ti­ment. Af­ter lead­ing the na­tion, con­fi­dence in Tas­ma­nia now lags be­hind the rest of the coun­try ex­cept NSW and Vic­to­ria.

How­ever, re­cent rains since the sur­vey was com­pleted are s ex­pected to boost con­fi­dence.

While 57 per cent of Tas­ma­nian farm­ers ex­pected lit­tle change in agri­cul­tural eco­nomic con­di­tions over the com­ing 12 months, 30 per cent held a neg­a­tive view, up from 18 per cent in the Septem­ber quar­ter.

Dry con­di­tions were the key driver of this pes­simism, with 83 per cent of farm­ers say­ing this was the rea­son con­di­tions were likely to worsen.

The sur­vey also found Tas­ma­nian farm­ers felt gen­er­ally well pre­pared for dry con­di­tions, re­port­ing strong busi­ness vi­a­bil­ity and plans for on­go­ing in­vest­ment.

A to­tal of 95 per cent of those sur­veyed in­di­cated a level of pre­pared­ness for drought, with more than half stat­ing they more pre­pared now than five years ago.

Rabobank branch man­ager for Tas­ma­nia Kathryn Brown said in­vest­ment in wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture had helped mit­i­gate the im­pact of dry con­di­tions, with ir­ri­ga­tion schemes be­ing built and work such as dams also tak­ing place on farms.

Ms Brown said many tra­di­tional graz­ing prop­er­ties now had the in­fra­struc­ture to di­ver­sify and grow ir­ri­gated fod­der crops.

The per­cent­age of re­spon­dents ex­pect­ing bet­ter con­di­tions fell to 13 per cent, down from 20 per cent.

Ms Brown said mo­men­tum from early spring rains was sapped when the state recorded its third-dri­est Oc­to­ber.

Since then the state had re­ceived a spring break, with rains of 25mm to 100mm across much of the state.

“While the rain has been re­ceived later in the spring, it will still pro­vide ben­e­fit to those who are do­ing late si­lage and hay con­ser­va­tion and will give ir­ri­ga­tors some re­prieve.”

Ms Brown said the dry Oc­to­ber had led to ir­ri­ga­tion pro­grams start­ing early.

She said costs had also been pushed up by grain and fer­tiliser prices with dairy farm­ers in par­tic­u­lar feel­ing the pinch.

She said some pro­duc­ers had re­duced their feed ra­tions slightly to buf­fer the in­crease in feed prices and this could see milk pro­duc­tion fall.

Tougher dairy­ing con­di­tions saw con­fi­dence in the sec­tor fall, with no sur­veyed dairy farm­ers ex­pect­ing con­di­tions to im­prove and a third ex­pect­ing de­te­ri­o­ra­tion .

With milk prices in line with fore­casts, dairy farm­ers felt bet­ter about the outlook for their gross farm in­comes, with 42 per cent ex­pect­ing an in­crease next year.

Over­all 92 per cent of Tas­ma­nian farm­ers ex­pected in­comes to im­prove, or re­main the same over the next year – just shy of the level re­ported by farm­ers in West­ern Aus­tralia.

Tas­ma­nian farm­ers’ in­vest­ment in­ten­tions were strong, with 80 per cent to main­tain their level of in­vest­ment.

Those plan­ning to in­crease in­vest­ment fell to 17 per cent, and half of those were look­ing to ex­pand by buy­ing prop­erty.

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