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Read recent successes and challenges from Australia’s growing ag industry

There are approximately 870,400 agricultural businesses in Australia spread out over 387 million hectares of agricultural land, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It’s hard to visualise just how big such a space is, and that’s because it’s immense – about the size of India and covering just over half of Australia’s land mass.

Agricultural businesses – of which 99% are Australian owned and operated – range from small-scale companies to mammoth conglomerates, and together they are responsible for increasing the value of production to a record $85.3BN in 2021-22. Although the gross value of agricultural production is forecast to be $81.8BN in 2022–23 – which is down 4% from current year to date – it’s still reasonable to say that the agricultural industry is flourishing. The predicted value of production is expected to reach $100BN value by 2030.

Since 2019, Australia has committed over A$6BN to help farmers build resilience and access new markets across the world, with strong government support set to continue. The Australian Government’s Ag2030 plan is designed to help farmers, fishers and foresters generate $100BN in production by 2030 through:

  • expand trade opportunities
  • strengthen our biosecurity systems
  • reward farmers for the stewardship of their land
  • ensure that we have fair, strong and resilient supply chains
  • improve the competitiveness and innovative capacity of the industry
  • deliver the infrastructure our farmers and rural businesses need
  • invest in our people.

The successes

Global supply of cereals around the world continues to be tight, and Australia is one of the world’s largest wheat exporters. The Australian wheat industry is export oriented, shipping about 65-75% of the nation’s total production to more than 50 countries. Wheat prices are expected to remain high with strong world demand and tight supply. The gross value of wheat production is forecast to reach $12.BN in 2022–23, which is the second highest on record following the record high of $13BN in 2021–22. According to the Australian Banking Association, crops have risen from 35% of total value in 1988-89 to 54% of total value in 2021-22, which is a huge jump of 440% growth.

The beef industry is a key agricultural enterprise in Australia, and Australia is the second largest beef exporter – behind Brazil – in the world. Despite Australia’s relatively small population, it has the 7th largest population of cattle in the world.

Australian beef supply is forecast to make a substantial step towards recovery in 2023 after falling to the lowest level in decades in 2021 and generating only a marginal improvement in 2022, according to the Office of Agricultural Affairs, Canberra. The Australian beef industry is heavily reliant on export markets, with over 60% of Australian beef exported, predominantly to the USA, Korea and Japan.

Sheep (wool and lamb) production is another key agricultural industry, and exports account for over 90 percent of wool and cotton production.

Beyond industries, Australia’s agriculture plays an important role in society. It’s an industry that is underpinned by resourceful individuals who manage to run their businesses in increasingly challenging environments, and who then manage to exceed expectations year in and year out.

Recent challenges

Australian agricultural producers have had to manage substantial variability in the last few years, due to Covid and to a number of extreme weather events including the torrential rains along the east coast over 2022.

Is extreme rainfall a positive or a negative? The answer depends on your location, business model, and what land management practices have been put in place.

Water is a key to agricultural production, however extreme fluctuations in water can have a negative impact on agricultural productivity and revenue. If the rainfall is much lower or higher than the ideal, it can lead to significant problems, from drowned crops to lower yields.

Victoria Vlasoff of Valleyview Farm Goats in NSW’s Nemingha explains:

“Rainfall has affected farm life and business life for us. Regular wet weather this year has resulted in more parasites and more issues for livestock, so we have had to concentrate on maintaining health. But we have been lucky in that we have been on the ball, but know several farmers who have lost stock due to these issues and are battling with getting things back on track.”

"Business wise, our jobs for travelling with our grazing stock have had to be put on hold due to flooding state-wide, which has resulted in a loss of income for us. On a wider scale, communities have been unable to properly prepare for summer due to the heavy rains. Ours is livestock related, but I know crop farmers have had it really hard as well as they haven't been able to get a decent crop due to the rain. Too much can severely damage crops which in turn hurt the consumers at the supermarkets.”

Interestingly, although the weather conditions post a significant challenge, Australian farmers cite inflation and soaring costs as the biggest challenge, according to a recent Roy Morgan Survey of Australian farmers. In the investigation, 26% of Australian farmers named inflation and costs among their biggest current challenges, while 19% referenced the weather. Economic insecurity was mentioned by 11% of farmers, and biosecurity came up in 9% of responses mentioning such things as pests, diseases and noxious weeds.

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07 Dec