Agribusiness profits down

AGRIBUSINESSES on the North Coast have suffered over the past quarter, according to the results of a new survey.

The Westpac and Charles Sturt University Agribusiness Index, released yesterday, found the economic performance indicator for the Richmond-Tweed region was -0.2 for the December 2009 quarter.

This is compared with a national result of +0.04 and a NSW average of +0.01.

A ‘satisfactory’ result is an EPI of zero.

The Richmond-Tweed’s result for the same period the previous year was -0.13.

However, Brookfarm, a macadamia property at St Helena, says they are defying the local trend and going from strength-to-strength.

Sales and marketing manager Caroline Crooks admitted that times probably had been tough for ‘pure agriculture businesses’.

“We are probably an exception because we value-add to our products,” she said.

“Brookfarm’s saving grace is that we turn our product into really outrageous things.

“It has really helped us because it certainly hasn’t been a great season for macadamias.

“Our success has been phenomenal – we are selling to major airlines now and exporting to countries all over the world.”

Part of the survey also questioned agribusinesses on their knowledge of carbon trading systems and efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Westpac regional manager, Andrew Davis, said that of the agribusinesses surveyed in the Richmond-Tweed district, 96 per cent were aware a carbon trading system may be introduced in the future.

Ms Crooks said Brookfarm was working hard to be more environmentally sustainable.

“We’ve recently had an office built in Byron Bay and there were environmental issues with that,” she said.

“But now we have a purpose-built building that is energy efficient.

“We do strive for carbon neutrality in every aspect of the way we do business.

“It’s definitely the way of the future. We need to take responsibility.”

The Agribusiness Index also showed that respondents in the Richmond-Tweed district reported input costs, such as for raw materials, fuel, freight, feed, fertiliser, wages and utilities, decreased over the December 2009 quarter.

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