Letters to the editor

NOT TOO BAD: Despite a summer filled with scorching temperatures, farmers continue to have positive outlook for the year ahead.

NOT TOO BAD: Despite a summer filled with scorching temperatures, farmers continue to have positive outlook for the year ahead.

Positive outlook

2017 is shaping up to be a positive year for NSW farmers, however the hot summer has “taken the edge off” farmer sentiment.

The latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey has found while farmer confidence levels eased this quarter, they remained optimistic about their prospects and have done so for the past three years. 

Underpinned by strong market fundamentals for most agri commodities, the state’s sheep and beef graziers were particularly upbeat, while the dairy sector reported a strong turnaround in confidence.

The latest survey – completed last month – found 26 per cent of NSW farmers expected the agricultural economy to improve in the next 12 months (down from 41 per cent with that view in the previous survey), while 61 per cent expected it to remain stable (up from 42 per cent). 

Only eight per cent expected conditions to worsen, down slightly from 14 per cent with that view last quarter.

While the “bulk of the state had sizzled under the heat and it had driven the pull-back in confidence”, the commodity price outlook remained relatively unchanged and continued to underpin the positive sentiment prevailing in the farming sector.

This was reflected in the survey results, with 74 per cent of those expecting conditions to improve citing the commodity price outlook as reason for their optimism.

If you put all the commodities in one bucket, the overall outlook for the agri sector is very positive,” Mr Evans said, “however, at a granular level, there some exceptions, with the grains and oilseed markets remaining under pressure.

The beef and lamb market remains particularly strong and you only need to look at the demand at stud sales to see the optimism prevailing across the livestock sector.

Reflecting the hot, dry summer, seasonal conditions were less of a positive driver of farmer sentiment this quarter – nominated as reason for optimism by just 28 per cent of farmers expecting conditions to improve (down from 74 per cent last survey).

Much of the state has sweltered through a number of heatwaves, which has seen the state record one of its hottest and in some areas their hottest summer on record.

Thankfully farmers entered summer with a good availability of feed and water, and the higher dam storage levels have ensured water prices are more affordable.

The hot weather had resulted in some impact on cotton yields, and while the effect was more marginal on irrigated cotton, it had hit dryland cotton.

While the impact will not be known until harvest, plants have been stressed by the heat, and there has only been very patchy rainfall.

In the grains sector, farmers will be hoping for a “good early break” in the season as the 2017/18 sowing period was fast approaching.

Peter Evans

Rabobank regional manager for Riverina 

Moving ahead 

THE NSW Government is moving ahead with reforms to commercial fishing, supported by the primary recommendation from a recent Parliamentary inquiry and I want to remind fishers of some important dates.

From December this year, the key reform links shares with catch and effort to prepare for that, the NSW government has chipped in $16 million and is overseeing a subsidised share trading market.

That commences on May 1, but registration forms must be submitted by March 27. There are further Government grants available to help fishers with independent financial and legal advice. I want to ensure anyone who plans to remain actively involved in commercial fishing can do so, with generous government subsidies available to help fund the purchase of additional shares.

Niall Blair 

Minister for Primary Industries

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