Farmers cautious despite forecast
AUSTRALIAN farm exports are strong according to the latest national data and local farmers, although cautious about the future, agree that current markets are positive.
The latest agricultural commodities report was released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
The document shows overall the prospects for the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors are positive.
"Assuming that favourable seasonal conditions continue, earnings from farm exports are forecast to be around $35.1 billion in 2012-13, after an estimated rise of 9.4% to $35.5 billion in 2011-12," explained ABARES executive director Paul Morris.
In 2013, agricultural commodities for which export earnings are forecast to rise include canola (2%), raw cotton (9%), wine (5%), beef and veal (1%) and sheep meat (22%).
Local farmers agree with the positive feeling about the current markets, but experience has taught them to project future earnings with caution.
Kevin Cocciola, auctioneer at the Lismore Cattle Sales Precinct, explained that "the cow market is up this week because they can't get any cattle out of Wagga and those areas. It is too wet. It is a numbers game and weather controls everything".
"The agricultural model is not going to control anything for the next two or three years, it is the weather," he said.
Asked for his outlook for the local industry despite weather patterns, Mr Cocciola explained: "The current outlook is positive but there are too many variables at play to be able to project future trade conditions"
"How can they forecast what is going to happen? If everyone in the saleyards knew that, the market is going to be really good for the next 12 months or two years they would be happy as Larry. But the weather controls everything in this industry."
Local cattle farmer Ashley Scarrabelotti explained that "we are not negative or pessimistic, we want to be positive. Things are looking better, it is raining, but we want to be realistic."
He added that sustained rises in costs and taxes applied to farming have to be factored in to have a realistic outlook of future conditions for trade.
Australia's beef cattle herd
2010-11: 26.2 million head (+9%)
2011-12: 27.6 million head (+5%)
2012-13: 28.8 million head (+4%)
2013-14: may reach 29.1 million, the largest herd since 1975-76