The value of Australia’s agriculture industry is expected to fall 17% to $78 billion in 2023-24, according to a report from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
This comes after a record $94b last year, with drier conditions affecting record-high crop production levels and declining global commodity prices expected for the rest of this year. However, it is still the third highest on record.
ABARES Acting Executive Directo David Galeano says the subdued conditions will likely be felt across Australia’s crop and livestock sectors.
“The past three years, agriculture has seen record-breaking crop production because of higher rainfall,” he says.
“As we enter the El Niño period, we expect to see the national crop production fall from these record highs.
“Falling production values and incomes are also linked to declining global prices that are reflective of higher global supply.”
WA’s cropping forecast
In 2023-24, WA’s winter crop production is expected to decline by 15.5 million tonnes in 2023-24, a 41% fall from the previous year and 10% below the 10-year average to 2022-23.
The northern cropping region has experienced “largely unfavourable” conditions, with dryness limiting yield potential and leading to production downgrades. Wheat has been the most impacted crop, being the most dominant grain grown in the lower-rainfall northern broadacre regions.
Statewide wheat production is expected to plunge by 44% in 2023-24, reflecting 17% below the 10-year average.
Barley and canola yields are also set to be below the decade average at -29% and -42% respectively.
Crop prices to drop
ABARES also predicts domestic crop prices to fall in 2023-24 by 21% ($12b) to $46b. Domestic prices tend to follow global prices, which are reported to decline due to higher global crop production and lower price volatility compared to last year.
Driving the expected downturn in crop production values are:
- Wheat: -40% to $10b
- Canola: -44% to $3.6b
- Barley: -27% to $3.3b
However, higher horticulture, wine grapes and sugar production values may help offset the total fall in crop production values.
Livestock sector to stumble
Lower prices outweighing higher production volumes are expected to decrease the gross value of livestock production in 2023-24.
Anticipated rising livestock production is set to be tempered by drier weather, resulting on less pasture availability and more livestock turn-off rates.
Despite higher production volumes, the report predicts livestock production value to fall by $4.2b to $32b due to high saleyard supply, low domestic restocking demand and declining global livestock prices because of higher supply.
Driving the forecast decrease in value of livestock production are:
- Beef, veal and live cattle: -20% to $12.1b
- Lamb and sheep meat and live sheep: -19% to $3.7b
- Milk: -3% to $5.9b
- Wool: -7% to $2.9b
- By contrast, pork and poultry meat to see slight increase: 1% to $5.4b
Export values to contract
Australia’s agricultural export values are anticipated to fall by $11b from a record $78b to $67b in 2023-24. However, export values are still tipped to be the second highest on record.
The decline in export values is driven by expected lower crop export values of $39.5b, down 22%.
Livestock and livestock product export values are predicted to remain robust, only dropping 1% to $27.7b. This will be led by drier seasonal conditions in most of Australia, prompting higher turn-off rates and increased production, which will offset lower values.
The low Australian dollar – expected to average US65 cents in 2023-24 – is likely to support export values, which over a sustained period increases the price competitiveness of exports contracted in Australian dollars.
Many agricultural exports, such as bulk grains, benefit from a weaker Australian dollar as it increases the Australian dollar value of these contracts.
Global demand for Australian commodities in 2023-24
World wheat demand is set to reach a record high, driven by rising food and feed consumption, especially in Asia and Africa. Quality issues in major producers like China are set to push up feed wheat demand globally, except in areas such as the European Union where lower cost corn is abundant. Though consumption growth will outstrip supply, causing global stocks to fall, wheat prices are predicted to decline on eased global supply concerns. However, uncertainty remains high due to the Black Sea Grain Initiative’s suspension and other factors.
Oilseed, including canola
Global oilseed demand is expected to rise modestly, driven by canola and soybean consumption and biodiesel production. Growth in world oilseed supply is set to outpace demand, which coupled with China’s increasing demand for soybean, will lead to moderate oilseed prices. Domestic biodiesel production will likely remain strong, bolstered by expanding soybean and canola crushing facilities in Canada and the United States. World biodiesel demand is also predicted to increase, with domestic crushing and consumption set to rise which will reduce oilseeds available for export.
Despite increasing demand from major players including China, the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea, the global beef market’s rising supply, fuelled by Australia and Brazil, is expected to rise. Chinese economic concerns may make markets price-sensitive, favouring cheaper Brazilian options, while US import demand should increase due to its own production decline. Japan and Korea will see slight increases, fuelled by competitor challenges such as US trade limitations and potential Korean disease outbreaks.
China’s appetite for Australian dairy products is expected to remain subdued due to high volumes of local milk production and economic challenges. It is Australia’s, and the world’s, largest dairy market, but its own milk production remained relatively high in 2023, leading to reduced Chinese milk prices and decreased competitiveness of and demand for imported products. However, market signals in recent months suggest Chinese demand could be improving.
While global demand for Australian sheep meat is set to rise slightly in 2023-24, driven by booming consumption from China and the Middle East, it won’t outpace the surge in supply. Falling prices, particularly attractive to cost-sensitive markets, will offer some cushion but not fully offset the flood of lamb and mutton hitting the market. China, fuelled by strong food spending and cheaper Australian exports, leads the charge with rising demand, while the Middle East follows suit driven by tourism, population growth and increased consumption. However, the US, Australia’s top market for higher-value cuts, might lag due to economic woes and squeezed household budgets.
World demand for Australian wool is expected to fall as constrained household budgets reduce discretionary spending on woollen garments.
World wine demand is expected to continue declining, continuing the pre-pandemic trend. This has been driven by changing preferences for alcoholic beverages, along with increased moderation or abstinence. Modest increases in demand in some markets, such as the United Kingdom, have eroded due to high global inflation and interest rates.
Globally, demand for horticulture commodities is expected to decrease as ongoing high inflation and interest rates in many advanced economies will hamper consumer incomes and spending on discretionary products, including some horticultural products.
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