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Peak farm body challenges the industry to be 'more ambitious'

Figures released this week at the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Outlook conference confirmed that agriculture’s good fortunes are set to continue in 2017-2018 with the industry on track to record $59 billion in farm production.

Down from the 2016-2017 production haul of $60 billion, the agriculture sector continues to benefit from increased global demand for natural fibres, red meat and horticulture products. Farm exports are predicted to reach $47 billion in 2017-2018. 

A reduced national winter crop is mainly to blame for the overall five per cent decline in gross value farm production.

ABARES Chief Commodity Analyst, Peter Gooday, who addressed the ABARES Outlook 2018 conference, said,  “For beef farms, average incomes in 2017–18 are expected to decline from $150,000 per farm last year to $132, 000 in 2017–18. Beef prices fell globally but remain well above average. Farmers in many regions have offset lower prices through increased turnoff following herd rebuilding efforts over the past couple of years.

 “The sheep industry continues to be a shining light. This year, farm cash incomes are expected to average $170, 000 per farm. This is the highest we’ve seen on sheep farms in at least 20 years in real terms and is driven by solid prices for wool and lamb and greater production of sheep meat and wool.

 “The dairy industry has also seen big turnaround in farm cash income, up from $89, 600 last year to $137, 000 in 2017-18, mainly as a result of improved milk prices. However, global supply remains high so there are some risks on the downside in the next couple of years.

 “In the grains industry, farm cash incomes have declined this year, with yields returning to more normal levels and prices remaining soft. Grain growing regions in Queensland, North Western New South Wales and the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas in South Australia are projected to record much reduced farm cash incomes due to lower grain production.”

The forecast paints a positive picture out to at least 2022-2023 for agriculture with production that year tipped to tally $63 billion and farm exports $50 billion.

Getting the best deal for our farmers on the world stage will continue to play a defining role in our sector’s success into the future.
Fiona Simson, President, NFF

NFF President Fiona Simson said while the forecast growth was welcomed she challenged the industry to be more ambitious.

“The NFF has a vision for agriculture to be a $100 billion by 2030.

“This bold but entirely achievable target is, we’re pleased to say, also supported by our Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, Hon David Littleproud MP."

Ms Simson said an almost doubling of agriculture’s production value would be no mean feat.

“We won’t achieve it by retaining the status quo or taking a 'business as usual' approach.

“It will take an across industry, public-private, multi-disciplined effort to make the step change in productivity needed to hit the $100 billion mark."

Ms Simson said for agriculture to reach its potential, improvements and innovations across the supply chain were required.

“On farm, the adoption and application of ag technology such as artificial intelligence, big data, automation and remote sensory represent big opportunities.

“Fit for purpose infrastructure is crucial, including digital connectivity, roads, rail and ports as are the correct workforce, business and energy policy settings.

Ms Simson said the Government’s commitment to pursuing preferential trade agreements could largely be credited for the positive position agriculture finds itself in today.

“Getting the best deal for our farmers on the world stage will continue to play a defining role in our sector’s success into the future.”

The Liverpool Plains farmer said additional capital was also a must.

“Between now and 2025, the farm business collective faces the prospect of a $110 billion shortfall in required capital.

“We need to think outside the square as to where this shortfall in capital might be sourced. We can’t afford to shut our minds to any options.”

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