Queens­land farm­ers have pos­i­tive out­look

State has the big­gest growth in con­fi­dence

The Western Star - - RURAL WEEKLY -

QUEENS­LAND farmer con­fi­dence has taken a pos­i­tive turn over the past quar­ter, with promis­ing spring rain­fall in south­ern parts of the state fu­elling a more op­ti­mistic out­look in the ru­ral sec­tor, the lat­est Rabobank Ru­ral Con­fi­dence Sur­vey has shown.

Queens­land re­ported the big­gest in­crease in ru­ral con­fi­dence lev­els in the coun­try in the na­tional sur­vey, which was com­pleted in Novem­ber.

Rabobank re­gional man­ager for north Queens­land and North­ern Ter­ri­tory Trent McIn­doe said drought con­di­tions which had neg­a­tively im­pacted con­fi­dence in parts of the Dar­ling Downs and south­west Queens­land had be­gun to ease dur­ing spring with some sig­nif­i­cant rain, par­tic­u­larly in Oc­to­ber.

“And as soil mois­ture pro­files and pas­tures have be­gun to grow, so too has pos­i­tive sen­ti­ment,” he said.

Mr McIn­doe said the cat­a­strophic bush­fires that have been rag­ing across parts of Queens­land in re­cent days, along with ex­treme heat­wave con­di­tions, would un­doubt­edly have knocked farmer con­fi­dence since the sur­vey was in the field.

“While the fires have not been lo­cated in ma­jor agri­cul­tural ar­eas, it is still too early to see the full im­pacts and the re­cent ex­treme con­di­tions will be weigh­ing on the state’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor,” he said.

The fi­nal Ru­ral Con­fi­dence Sur­vey for the year found that after a year in neg­a­tive ter­ri­tory – with more Queens­land farm­ers hav­ing a neg­a­tive than pos­i­tive out­look on their prospects – the state’s pri­mary pro­duc­ers were over­all more op­ti­mistic.

Queens­land farm­ers re­ported the strong­est jump in con­fi­dence across the coun­try in the sur­vey, with 29 per cent of pro­duc­ers in­di­cat­ing a pos­i­tive out­look on the agri­cul­tural econ­omy in the next 12 months, up from just 11 per cent with that view last quar­ter.

The pro­por­tion ex­pect­ing agri­cul­tural eco­nomic con­di­tions to de­te­ri­o­rate had de­clined to 28 per cent, from 55 per cent pre­vi­ously.

A to­tal of 38 per cent of sur­vey re­spon­dents ex­pected sim­i­lar con­di­tions to the pre­vi­ous 12 months.

Mr McIn­doe said the re­bound in sen­ti­ment was tes­ta­ment to the un­der­ly­ing pos­i­tive out­look that pro­duc­ers have about Queens­land’s agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries.

“While it’s im­pos­si­ble to make a busi­ness drought-proof, Queens­land pro­duc­ers have had more than their share of se­ri­ous droughts and they have learned to op­er­ate in quite a chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

“While the rain that fell, par­tic­u­larly in Oc­to­ber, has def­i­nitely lifted the spir­its for pro­duc­ers who re­ceived it, it hasn’t had a huge im­pact on all the ar­eas that need it, and we still have more than half the state drought de­clared.

“For some of our pri­mary pro­duc­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the north­west of the state, they have been in drought for so long it has al­most had to be­come their op­er­at­ing model.”

The readi­ness of farm­ers to han­dle chal­leng­ing dry con­di­tions was also ex­am­ined this quar­ter with the sur­vey ask­ing pro­duc­ers about their level of drought ‘pre­pared­ness’.

Of the Queens­land re­spon­dents sur­veyed, 43 per cent in­di­cated their farm busi­nesses were very pre­pared to man­age a drought while 50 per cent said they were some­what pre­pared and only six per cent felt un­pre­pared.

More than half – 56 per cent – be­lieved their abil­ity to pre­pare for drought was bet­ter now than five years ago.

While over­all Queens­land ru­ral con­fi­dence had risen to pos­i­tive lev­els, there was some dis­par­ity seen across the com­modi­ties.

The state’s grains in­dus­try in­di­cated a much-im­proved out­look on the year ahead with 46 per cent of Queens­land grow­ers sur­veyed ex­pect­ing bet­ter con­di­tions for the agri­cul­tural econ­omy, a sub­stan­tial in­crease from only seven per cent last quar­ter, and a fur­ther 44 per cent ex­pect­ing stable con­di­tions.

In cot­ton, the re­sult was sim­i­lar, with 48 per cent an­tic­i­pat­ing im­prov­ing con­di­tions (up from nine per cent) and 16 per cent a sim­i­lar year to last.

Mr McIn­doe said the rain­fall re­ceived in Oc­to­ber had not, how­ever, had much of an im­pact in the north­ern part of the state and both the cen­tral coast and high­lands, as well as north Queens­land, re­tained a more neg­a­tive out­look, de­spite an im­prove­ment on last quar­ter.

“The top half of the state has not re­ally seen much in the way of rain and, par­tic­u­larly in North Queens­land, we are see­ing the im­pact of lower cat­tle prices and a hike in feed costs for beef pro­duc­ers and the on­go­ing sup­pressed global prices in sugar,” he said.

This con­cern in the top half of the state is re­flected in pro­duc­ers’ cash flow pro­jec­tions with 53 per cent of North Queens­land pro­duc­ers ex­pect­ing their in­come to de­crease in the com­ing 12 months, a re­sult more than 20 per cent higher than the other Queens­land re­gions.

Across the com­modi­ties, Queens­land grain grow­ers were the most up­beat about their prospects, with 59 per cent ex­pect­ing a stronger fi­nan­cial re­sult in the com­ing 12 months.

Mr McIn­doe said de­spite con­cerns over next year’s in­come, Queens­land farm­ers across the board still rated the vi­a­bil­ity of their farms much higher than in pre­vi­ous droughts, with 92 per cent of those farm­ers sur­veyed as­sess­ing their busi­nesses as vi­able.

“We have seen a lot of farm busi­nesses that have man­aged to sur­vive, de­spite some of them be­ing in more than five con­sec­u­tive years of drought,” he said.

“Aware­ness in agri­cul­ture of op­tions, pos­si­bil­i­ties and man­age­ment strate­gies dur­ing dry times are con­tin­u­ing to im­prove and pro­duc­ers in a way have be­come con­di­tioned for the va­garies of the sea­son and have struc­tured their busi­nesses ac­cord­ingly.”

PHOTO: FILE

FEEL­ING CON­FI­DENT: Queens­land re­ported the big­gest growth in farmer con­fi­dence in the lat­est Rabobank Ru­ral Con­fi­dence Sur­vey.

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