The world is going nuts for Australian farm produce as overseas markets clamour for locally grown nuts such as almonds and macadamias as well as agricultural stalwarts such as beef, lamb, wool and cotton. The value of Australian farm production is forecast to surge by 8.3 per cent this financial year to a massive $63.8 billion, thanks to favourable seasonal conditions in most farming areas and strong prices for major exports such as beef, lamb and wool. Vast almond orchards like this one in Victoria’s north west are contributing to Australia’s agriculture boom. Production records have been smashed across the country, and with the overwhelming majority of our farm produce sent overseas, the value of farm exports is forecast to hit $47.7 billion in 2016-17 and rise even higher next year, to a record $48.7 billion.
Australia is tipped to export a record volume of wheat (22.8 million tonnes), barley (7.4 million tonnes) and chickpeas (1.4 million tonnes), and earn a record $75 million plus from cherry exports. More good news is tipped for Australian agriculture, including sheep farmers. Photo: Kara Roselund But a new story is emerging behind the Australian farm gate. The value of tree nut exports is projected to be $760 million in 2016-17, down on last year but still the second highest on record.
The nutty success has seen Australia rise to become the second-largest almond exporter in the world, and largest exporter of macadamias. The biggest buyers of Australian almonds in 2015-16 were India and Spain, while the biggest buyer of Australian macadamias was China.
Australia’s agriculture boom is reflected in figures to be released on Tuesday by the federal government’s agricultural economics forecaster, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, at the Outlook 2017 conference in Canberra. “The exceptional value of farm production this year comes off the back of record crop production and strong performance across livestock industries,” ABARES executive director Peter Gooday said. More good news lies ahead for Australian farmers, with strong export earnings growth forecast in 2017-18 for sectors including cotton (export earnings forecast to rise 35 per cent), dairy (up 11 per cent), and wool (up 10 per cent).
“It’s a record-breaking year and it’s mainly on the crop side of things that it’s a record-breaking year,” said Trish Gleeson, acting chief commodity analyst for ABARES.
“The winter crop that we’ve just harvested, for the first time, has been a record in every state. So that’s quite significant because usually, if we have a poor year in the eastern states, Western Australia has a bonza year. But this time [there’s] a record in each state for winter crop production,” she said. National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson strongly welcomed the report. “Ag might be the new black,” she said.
“There’s been a lot of talk about a golden era for agriculture. And I think figures like this really show that agriculture is on the rise. “We have been contributing for many generations solidly to the GDP, but to see these sorts of increases, to see these sorts of numbers – which NFF has been tipping for some time – is extremely satisfying,” she said.
“We think that agriculture is actually one of, if not the, fastest growing industries in Australia at the moment.”