Victorian farmers bucking trend
quarterly survey into farmer confidence has revealed Victorian sentiment remains ‘steady’, bucking a national trend.
There has been an overall decline in rural confidence across Australia, reflective of much of the country experiencing ongoing dry conditions.
Details of a Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey released earlier this month, found the Victorian rural confidence index remained unchanged from last quarter, albeit sitting at lower levels than 2016 and 2017.
The survey found the state’s grain and sheep producers to be the most positive about their prospects, while confidence improved markedly in the dairy sector, but lagged well behind in beef.
Although Victorian farmers remained generally less pessimistic than many other primary producers across the nation, dry seasonal conditions still weighed on the state’s rural sentiment.
Rabobank southern Victoria and Tasmania regional manager, Hamish Mcalpin, said the survey revealed there had been a heightened level of anxiety about the dry season, but recent rain had fallen in the ‘nick of time’ to put the winter crop back on track.
The survey found the net rural confidence index for Victoria remained steady at minus two percent, though trailing the levels reported over the previous two years.
It also revealed that half of the state’s farmers, at 50 percent, believed agricultural economic conditions would remain fairly similar to the past 12 months. The remainder were relatively evenly divided as to whether conditions were likely to improve, 22 percent, or deteriorate, 24 percent.
Mr Mcalpin said the state’s graingrowers had welcomed widespread rain, which fell a couple of weeks after the average ‘break’ date, but follow-up rain would be critical with low soil moisture profiles.
“After a very dry February, March and April, there was a fair bit of nervousness on the eve of this break,” he said.
“Expectations are for winter crop plantings to be in line with last year, but canola hectares have been wound back in the Wimmera and Mallee by an estimated 35 percent and 45 percent, due to the dry start to the season and the comparatively high price of cereals.
“Northern Wimmera and Mallee particularly will be looking for follow-up rain with the crop sown into low levels of soil moisture, while south and west of Horsham, crop emergence has been excellent with satisfactory soil moisture.”
Mr Mcalpin said pulses had also been a casualty of the dry start to the season and of significantly lower yearon-year prices.
Plantings are down in the Mallee and south-west of the state.
Despite seasonal concerns, the survey found grain-growers to be the most positive about the coming 12 months, with 29 percent expecting agricultural economic conditions to improve and a further 49 percent with a stable outlook.
Sheep producers also retained a relatively optimistic view on the year ahead, with nearly two-thirds, 65 percent, expecting conditions to remain comparatively unchanged.
But in the beef sector it was a different story, with 49 percent expecting economic conditions to deteriorate.
“While the season has been tough for graziers, with many feeding and offloading older classes of stock, record wool and high lamb and mutton prices are providing the incentive to feed sheep,” Mr Mcalpin said.
“But in beef, cattle prices haven’t held up as well, although they are still above long-term averages.”
The state’s dairy farmers posted the largest upswing in confidence, the survey found, with 20 percent expecting improving economic conditions in the coming year and 54 percent expecting stable conditions.
Despite the mixed outlook for commodities, farmers across the state held strong investment plans for the coming 12 months – although those intending to increase investment declined slightly to 18 percent, from 25 percent in the previous survey.
The percentage expecting to maintain investment at the same level as the previous 12 months increased to 75, from 66 percent.
The Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey questions an average of 1000 primary producers across a wide range of commodities and geographical areas throughout Australia on a quarterly basis.