Ag sector strong despite drier conditions to come: ABARES

Grain Central, September 5, 2023

Stored water is underpinning production prospects for the 2023-24 cotton crop as soil-moisture deficits increase amid dry conditions in Qld and northern NSW. Photo: Moree Real Estate

AUSTRALIAN agriculture, fisheries and forestry are set to have the third-highest yearly gross value on record in 2023-24, with production value predicted to reach $86 billion.

ABARES executive director Jared Greenville said ABARES figures released today in the Agricultural Commodities Report and Australian Crop Report show the sector remains strong despite challenging conditions.

“For agriculture, after a record $92B result in the 2022-23 financial year, the forecast 14-percent decrease will see value fall to $80B in 2023-24 because of drier domestic conditions and an expected fall in global commodity prices,” Dr Greenville said.

​“As we come out of a higher-rainfall La Niña period and move into a drier El Niño climate, it is expected that below-average rainfall and warmer temperatures will reduce Australian crop yields and production from the previous year’s record highs.

Total crop-production value for 2023-24 is forecast at $46B, down 20pc from the 2022-23 figure.

​“National winter-crop production is expected to be around 45.2 million tonnes, slightly below the 10-year average.

“Drier conditions are so far having the greatest impact on northern cropping areas, with prospects for the southern cropping regions holding up after better-than-expected winter rainfall.

​“It is also expected that summer-crop plantings will fall from last year but remain above average, due to lower rainfall forecast for spring and summer being buffered by high levels of water storages.

​“Drier conditions will also mean livestock producers will need to send more animals to slaughter.

“As supply increases, saleyard prices for cattle and sheep are expected to fall; sheep prices are forecast to fall below their long-term average.

​“At the same time, global meat prices are falling.

“These factors will mean despite higher production volumes, the value of livestock production is expected to fall by $1.6B to $34B in 2023-24.

​“Production and prices outcomes will also weigh on export performance with the value of agricultural exports expected to decrease by 17pc to $65B.

​“Farmers are also facing elevated input costs across key inputs such as fertiliser, diesel and labour.

“High interest rates are also increasing the costs of debt repayments.

​“Despite all the challenges, it is important to remember that falls are coming off the back of record years which have helped rebuild financial reserves and our agricultural sector remains resilient and competitive.”

Summer-crop forecasts

In the Australian Crop Report, ABARES has forecast the national summer-crop area in 2023-24 at 1.3 million hectares, down 15pc from the 2022-23 figure.

The fall reflects expectation of below-average rainfall and declining levels of stored soil moisture in key summer-cropping regions in Queensland and New South Wales.

If the below-average rainfall outlook for spring is realised, it will likely see total Australian summer-crop
production fall by 19pc to 4.1Mt tonnes in 2023-24.

Sorghum production is forecast to fall 39pc to 1.5Mt in 2023-24.

Area planted to sorghum is forecast to fall by 22pc year on year to 527,000ha, but remain 1pc above the 10-year average to 2022-23.

Production of cotton lint in 2023-24 is forecast to fall 8pc to 1.15Mt, or 5.07 million bales (Mb), 49pc above the 10-year average, and down from 2022-23 production of 1.25Mt, or 5.5Mb.

Area planted to cotton is expected to fall by 16pc, driven by a reduction in dryland cotton plantings under the expectation of dry conditions.

Cotton production is likely to remain above average as planting of irrigated cotton will be supported by high levels of water storages in the Murray-Darling Basin following three consecutive years of above-average rainfall.

High water-storage levels, carry-over water and irrigation allocations are expected to support irrigated
cotton yields despite the expected onset of hot and dry climate conditions; this is expected to offset
reductions in dryland cotton yields.

Production of rice is estimated to recover in 2023-24, rising by 26pc to 656,000t, driven by a forecast increase in area on the back of expected improvements in planting conditions from 2022-23 which was impacted by wet conditions.

Source: ABARES


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