(Australian Associated Press)
Farmers are feeling optimistic about 2016 after good summer rain early in the year and healthy livestock prices boosted confidence, according to the latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey.
The survey, completed in February, found that after falling last quarter, Australian rural confidence had rebounded strongly, with eight out of 10 farmers expecting conditions to improve or remain similar to last year.
Although farmer sentiment is robust, more rain is needed over the next few weeks to maintain the positive outlook.
Farmers hope that the weakening El Nino weather system will bode well for rainfall and underpin production intentions.
“After good January rains, which were above-average for most of the southern half of the country, there has been limited rain to speak of in many regions through February and into March,” said Rabobank’s national manager Country Banking Australia, Todd Charteris.
Mr Charteris said there had been some significant rainfall across Queensland and parts of northwestern NSW which have been struggling with ongoing drought.
But there are still areas desperately needing follow-up rain.
Confidence was higher across all agricultural commodities, but the outlook among sugar and dairy producers was comparatively subdued.
Confidence rose in all states except in Western Australia where it was steady.
Aside from expectations of improved rainfall, commodity prices have also helped boost farmer confidence, especially among beef and sheep graziers.
More than 80 per cent of farmers across all sectors, except for dairy, expect their income to improve or remain similar to last year.
The Rabobank survey showed that farmers’ appetite to invest more in their business was at a four-year high.
More than 25 per cent of farmers are seeking to improve property infrastructure such as fences, yards and silos; increase livestock numbers; upgrade machinery; or buy property.
Farmers’ perception of the viability of their business was at a 14-year high. Ninety-five per cent believed their business had long-term viability.
The Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey questions around 1,000 primary producers throughout Australia on a quarterly basis.