WA farm confidence down over COVID-19 outlook

Seeding at Three Springs.
Camera IconSeeding at Three Springs. Credit: Travis Petford

Uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is taking its toll on WA farmers, diminishing early-year optimism despite good seasonal prospects, according to the latest quarterly Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey.

Overall, 22 per cent of WA’s farmers expect improved prospects over the next 12 months, retreating from 31 per cent with that view last quarter, while the proportion expecting conditions to worsen doubled, from 12 per cent to 24 per cent.

Those forecasting conditions to stay the same remained firm at 49 per cent.

Increasing unease over commodity prices proved the strongest cause for concern, cited by 69 per cent of farmers as a reason agricultural economic conditions were likely to worsen, a significant increase from just 13 per cent last quarter.

Overseas market and global uncertainty were also behind 54 per cent of farmers’ declining sentiment.

Confidence dropped across all sectors, falling particularly among WA sheep producers – with none of those surveyed expecting conditions to improve, and almost half expecting conditions to worsen.

Specifically questioned in this survey about the impact of COVID-19, just over half of WA producers reported a negative effect on their business.

Sheep producers were the most affected, with 61 per cent reporting they had been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Rabobank regional manager for Western Australia, Steve Kelly said wool and lobster producers in the state were bearing the brunt of COVID-19 market disruption.

“The volatility of the export market into China and falling demand for textiles is causing angst among WA wool producers,” he said.

Mr Kelly said sheep meat producers, on the other hand, had recently enjoyed one of their best seasons on record.

“Eastern Australian restockers sourcing sheep from WA has resulted in prices elevated to record levels,” he said.

More in this week’s Countryman.

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