Vic­to­rian farm­ers buck­ing trend

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - AgLife -

Ana­tional

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.

Ex­pec­ta­tions

“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.

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