Rainfall raises hope for farmers
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Recent rainfall experienced across the state has lifted the outlook of Western Australian farmers, following one of the hottest and driest autumns on record.
The latest quarterly Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey, released today, found net rural confidence in WA had dropped significantly over the past quarter to a five-year low, as many of the state’s farmers awaited rain to germinate crops and improve pasture.
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is a part of the international Rabobank Group, a global specialist in food and agribusiness banking.
The survey found the majority of WA farmers held a negative outlook for the year ahead, pushing the state’s rural confidence indicator to -15 per cent, down from 23 per cent last quarter.
About 29 per cent of respondents predicted conditions in the agricultural sector to worsen, up from 6 per cent last quarter.
While 14 per cent expected it to improve, down 29 per cent from the last quarter.
However, Rabobank regional manager for WA Crawford Taylor said with recent rainfall experienced by much of the state and with more still in the forecast, the outlook was potentially more positive than was indicated in the survey results.
“We’ve had a very dry summer and most of autumn and, at the time the survey was taken, there had been very little in the way of a break,” he said.
“However, we’ve seen between 20 to 80 millimetres fall over much of the state in the past couple of weeks, which will help get crops out of the ground and improve feedstocks in the pastoral zones.”
Mr Taylor said while drought was front of mind, particularly for grain producers, there was growing concern from the sheep industry about potential changes to the live export industry.
Confidence in the sheep sector also dropped for the quarter, with 34 per cent of those surveyed taking a negative outlook on the year ahead, up from zero negative respondents in the last quarter.
The threat to live exports was highlighted as the predominant driver of the fall in confidence in this sector, cited by 73 per cent of sheep producers as reason for concern.
“Live export of sheep is currently a major topic for industry leaders and for both sides of government and it is of particular importance for WA,” Mr Taylor said.
“More than a quarter of the state’s sheep flock is generally destined for the live export market and WA supplies 85 per cent of Australia’s sheep live exports.”
Despite threats to the live exports market and concern for drought, Mr Tayler said farmers’ investment intentions were reflective of longer-term confidence in the WA agriculture sector, with the survey showing investment intentions remained robust, albeit less so than last quarter.
The Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey questions an average of 1,000 primary producers across a wide range of commodities and geographical areas throughout Australia on a quarterly basis.