Australian agriculture is expected to deliver an eye-watering $80.4 billion of produce in the next year, the second biggest amount on record, while exports are forecast to be the highest ever.
It comes despite producers continuing to face challenges over workforce shortages and inflated input prices, with world fertilisers at their highest levels since 2008.
ABARES executive director Jared Greenville said next financial year will be another “standout” for the sector.
“We’re seeing record production values and export values across our winter crop range, including wheat, barley and canola, but we’re also seeing strong growth in the horticulture sector which is set to hit a record value as well,” Dr Greenville told AAP.
“Horticulture is an industry that’s grown close to 115 per cent in real terms over the past 20 years … a big part of that is access to international consumers.”
— ABARES (@ABARES) June 3, 2022
The ABARES quarterly outlook, produced by the Department of Agriculture, reflects a combination of favourable Australian conditions and very high world food prices.
A poor outlook for world food production, on top of war in Ukraine and trade restrictions, are all pushing commodity prices higher.
The gross value of agricultural production is forecast to be down slightly from last year’s high of $83.1 billion.
The total value of the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors is forecast to be $86.2 billion.
Agricultural exports are forecast to be a record $65 billion in 2022-23, although continuing disruptions to the global supply chain and high shipping prices present ongoing challenges, according to the outlook.
Grain growers are expected to deliver their fourth largest and second most valuable winter crop on record, due in part to high global grain prices as well as the war.
Above-average rainfall from February to April led to flooding, harvest delays and the loss of some crops, but the report found it hasn’t had a significant impact on national totals.
While the gross value of all major crop commodities is expected to remain high, the outlook predicts a record $13.5 billion for horticulture, $12.7 billion for wheat and $5.1 billion for canola, both the second highest on record for those commodities.
The gross value of production for the livestock sector is also forecast to rise by 1.2 per cent to $35 billion in the next year.
The outlook expects livestock prices will ease from all-time highs. While livestock production will grow, the value of exports will fall marginally to $25.1 billion as beef export prices ease.
Falling livestock prices are expected to push the value of beef production down slightly by 1.4 per cent to $15.6 billion, and the value of sheep meat production down by eight per cent to $4.3 billion.
The outlook predicts the national beef herd will grow by six per cent to 24.2 million head in the next year, while the sheep flock will stabilise at around 69 million head.
Dairy herds are expected to continue their decline, but higher yields will support a modest increase in production.
Food prices globally are now at their highest levels in a decade and are not expected to ease during 2022 or much of 2023.
The World Bank has noted food prices have now been rising for two years, and as of April 2022 were 78 per cent above their average between 2015 and 2019, with prices not expected to ease until 2023.
The impact of the labour shortage is expected to continue for agriculture, particularly horticulture, with the Reserve Bank forecasting the unemployment rate will continue to decline into 2023.
A high domestic supply of wine is expected to bring prices down, exacerbated by a surplus from last year, stagnant domestic consumption and the loss of China as a major importer of Australian red wines.
The outlook says opportunities will also present for the livestock industry after the trade agreement signed in April between Australia and India.