Farmers lose confidence about future
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Australia's farmers are more pessimistic than optimistic about 2013 with dry weather and poor commodity prices biting, a key survey has found.
Spring was too dry, particularly in the key grain producing states of Western Australia and South Australia, hurting yields in the critical lead-up to harvest and hampering pasture growth for graziers.
Rabobank's net rural confidence indicator has sat in negative territory all year but the latest quarterly survey showed Australian farmer sentiment has slipped further into the red.
That means a greater number of farmers expect conditions to worsen rather than improve over the coming 12 months, up to 35 per cent from 31 per cent, compared to just 16 per cent who were positive about the year (down from 19 per cent).
Nearly half (46 per cent) don't expect conditions to change much from last year.
The market and seasonal conditions were stronger last year, reflecting this year's falls.
The early part of 2012 was a wet one but the dry conditions since then caused crop downgrades, while livestock graziers across Australia have been concerned about the impact of dry weather on feed reserves and saleyard prices, said Rabobank group executive for Country Banking Australia, Peter Knoblanche.
"Looking forward, its heartening that the Bureau of Meteorology is now forecasting a more normal, less dry summer ahead," he said in a statement.
Uncertainties surrounding the live export legislation also put a dent in confidence for seven per cent of survey respondents.
This was particularly focused among sheep and beef producers, who were the least positive about the year ahead.
Prices for sheep and lamb are well off the historical highs of last year, while beef prices are also flat.
Of the sectors, sentiment was highest among the nation's dairy farmers.
That reflected the anticipated impact of slower production in the US and EU on the global dairy market.
Victoria's farmers were the most positive in the nation, with it being the largest dairy-producing state.
Farmers are more positive about their own enterprises than the wider agricultural economy.
However even that indicator slipped to just below neutral, with 34 per cent expecting a poorer gross farm income than that of last year (compared with 25 per cent who had that expectation last quarter), while 22 per cent anticipated an increase in gross farm income (down from 26 per cent).
The information comes from the Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey, which questions 1200 farmers across Australia every quarter about their outlook and sentiment.