Almost 400 primary producers heard an upbeat assessment of the outlook for agriculture at a Westpac Forum in Toowoomba on Queensland’s Darling Downs yesterday.
Westpac senior economist Justin Smirk said that despite the likelihood that the Australian dollar will remain at or above parity, and that volatility would continue, agriculture was facing good times ahead.
“Agriculture in Australia is in a position for a solid decade ahead based not just on population growth but rising incomes,” Mr Smirk told the forum.
“But counter to this is the fact that this environment will also be boosting input costs.
"The age of cheap energy has past and so now the focus remains on lifting productivity. Farmers that do well will, as always, be those who take advantage of periods of strong prices as well as maximising efficiencies.”
A panel of expert speakers included Graham Jennings, Westpac General Manager, Regional Commercial & Agribusiness, who said Australia boasted world-class and sustainable farming operations.
“The recently released statistics from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economic and Sciences, demonstrates that we have had a fantastic production cycle, with farm export earnings to rise by 9.4 per cent in this financial year to $35.5bn, but at the same time costs keep rising,” Mr Jennings said.
“Any planning for the future of our industry must focus on ensuring the sustainability of the next generation of farmers. Succession planning is the key for our nation to meet food production demand.”
Keynote speaker General Peter Cosgrove (rtd) discussed the future of the nation, the importance of Australia’s regional trading partners and the challenges ahead for agriculture.
“While regional Australians are necessarily focused on what their community is involved in, they are extremely informed about Australia’s place on the world stage.
“Although, Australia produces enough food to feed its own nation and could feed another 40 million people around the world, the challenge ahead for regional Australia is our ability to remain productive and engage the next generation of farmers. We need more young people assisting with agribusiness.
“The sky’s the limit when it comes to Australia and its trading partners. Our future will be determined on our relationships with our regional neighbours, Indonesia, New Zealand, China, Zimbabwe, India and of course the United States of America,” General Cosgrove said.
The Westpac Agribusiness knowhow Forums will travel to Wagga Wagga on May 8 this year.