Farmers pin hopes on exports

By: Anna Game-Lopata

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New Commonwealth Bank research reveals farmers see demand for Australian products as the agricultural industry’s number one opportunity

Farmers pin hopes on exports
Aussie farmers are counting on overseas demand to grow their businesses.

A survey released this month by the Commonwealth Bank shows close to one in three farmers (32 per cent) consider overseas demand for their products a major opportunity.

Undertaken for the bank by GfK Research, the survey reveals one in four (24 per cent) see export opportunities providing potential to scale up their farming business.

More than one in five (22 per cent) of 1000 farmers surveyed think the creation of niche products presents a potential opportunity.

The top three opportunities identified by the research are similar across the country, except in New South Wales, where Australia’s clean, green agricultural image is seen as a bigger opportunity than expanding farm operations.

In Victoria off-farm income and diversity outside of agriculture is seen as more important than demand for specialty products.

From an industry perspective, the dairy industry and large sheep operations see great prospects in overseas markets, with 47 per cent of respondents in each of those sectors naming overseas demand as the greatest opportunity.

Commonwealth Bank Director Agri Commodities Strategy Luke Mathews says changing diets in Asia is driving overseas demand for Australian produce.

The westernisation of diets in emerging countries, in particular China, is creating new opportunities for both dairy and red meat producers," Mathews says. 

"China has emerged as the fastest growing destination for Australian dairy and red meat export in recent years, a factor which should ultimately support farm gate prices."

Other opportunities noted by Australian farmers include diversification outside farming operations, further education and technology and innovation.

The cost of farm inputs is seen as greatest challenge for Australian producers while technology is cited as most important farming milestone.

Nationally, more than half of the surveyed farmers say input costs are an important challenge facing them today while just over half (51 per cent) are also concerned about low prices for outputs.

Over a third (40 per cent) say weather is a big challenge.

When asked about the challenges they expected to deal with in five years, there is a considerable shift from traditional concerns.

Only 11 per cent mention the ageing population and lack of youth in agriculture as a current challenge, while 23 per cent think it will be a challenge in five years’ time.

More than a third of respondents (34 per cent) nominate technology as the most significant milestone, including chemical and fertiliser developments, mechanisation and new varieties and breeds.

Commonwealth Bank Executive General Manager Regional and Agribusiness Banking Geoff Wearne says this is an exciting time for Australian agriculture, with growing opportunities in a number of markets.

"Identifying the opportunities is the first step; ensuring our farmers can capitalise on them will require the support of the whole industry," Wearne says.

"Ultimately, achieving success in new markets will be about understanding the changing needs of the global customer and being prepared to meet them."

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