The agricultural sector is continuing to break records in productivity and profitability, but price corrections are on the way according to the latest summary.
In a revised outlook from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), production in the sector is forecast to hit $81 billion in 2021-22, beating last year’s record by more than $12 billion.
Opening the annual ABARES conference on Tuesday the Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said thanks to seasons and commodity prices agriculture had hit a “sweet spot” but that growth must continue.
“Now is the time to make the reforms, to make the changes, that grows Australian agriculture well beyond $70-odd billion towards that $100 billion goal,” Mr Littleproud said.
Also addressing the ABARES conference on Tuesday was the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Mathias Cormann, who told the conference the OECD is looking at phasing out “market distorting” agricultural subsidies.
“Such measures are inefficient in transferring income to farmers as they tend to disproportionately benefit those with the largest land holdings, and they also exacerbate environmental problems in the agricultural sector,” he said.
The outlook was delivered off the back of warnings from a UN climate change report that Australian agricultural production will face “disruption and decline” as hotter and drier conditions stress rural communities.
But for now the ABARES outlook shows record results for cropping, with the highest-ever volumes of wheat, barley and canola, while cotton has delivered its second-highest yearly output.
Jared Greenville, Executive Director of ABARES, said the revision comes off the back of better than expected winter crop results, with higher yields in Western Australia driving up profits.
“This is an unprecedented result, and it can be put down to a combination of record high crop production, and the highest prices in real terms for Australian agricultural produce in 32 years,” he told AAP.
The Australian Crop Report, also released on Tuesday, showed national winter crop production is predicted to reach a record 61.9 million tonnes.
The effects of a wet spring and summer have meant a lot of the grain in NSW was downgraded due to weather damage. Despite that NSW had near-record levels of production.
Summer crops are forecast to be the fourth-highest on record, with production expected to rise by 64 per cent in 2021-22 to 5.3 million tonnes.
Trevor Whittington, Chief Executive of Western Australian Farmers, told AAP it has been an “extraordinary year” for farmers in the west of the country.
“Some farmers say it’s a one in 50 year event … which no one ever predicted,” Mr Whittington said. “There’s extraordinary confidence across the industry.
“Incomes for cropping farms have increased by about 40 per cent, for livestock 24 per cent, and for dairy 25 per cent,” Dr Greenville said on Tuesday.
High milk and meat prices have benefited the dairy and cattle industry, while the wine sector has felt the pinch from international trade disruptions.
The gross value of wine grape production is expected to fall by 28 per cent for the 2021 to 2022 financial year, that’s expected to fall a further seven per cent next year.
“We’re expecting that the wine sector will feel the pain of the loss of access to the Chinese market for some time,” ABARES’ Dr Greenville told AAP.
He said exports are forecast to continue their strong run, with a 32 per cent increase on the previous year expected to net around $65 billion.
But records may have peaked for now, with agricultural production anticipated to fall next year with the high costs of fuel, fertiliser and labour having an impact.
“We cannot expect such good conditions to continue indefinitely,” Dr Greenville said.
“We are expecting the gross value of agricultural production to fall by around six per cent to $76 billion next financial year, which is still the second highest on record.”