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Performance of Australian agriculture in 1997-98



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Media release ABARE

30 June 1998

GPO Box 1563 Canberra ACT 2601

Telephone (06) 272 2000 Facsimile (06) 272 2001 International code 616 http://www.abare.gov.au

Performance of Australian agriculture in 1997-98

‘Farm cash incomes for Australia’s broadacre and dairy industries in 1997-98 are expected to be maintained at levels similar to those of the previous two years’, Dr Brian Fisher, Executive Director of ABARE, said today when releasing the 1998 Australian Farm Surveys Report.

While incomes of grain producers fell further from their peak in 1995-96, as a result of lower wheat prices and reduced crop production, they remained high compared with the levels of the past decade. Specialist sheep producers continued their slow recovery from the low levels in the early 1990s, with farm cash incomes increasing from $26 160 in 1996-97 to an estimated $38 500 in 1997-98.

‘Higher cattle prices during 1997-98 have resulted in an improvement to incomes for a significant number of beef producers from the very low incomes recorded in 1995-96 and 1996- 97. However, incomes for many beef industry properties with high involvement in the live cattle trade declined sharply in 1997-98’, Dr Fisher said.

‘Higher milk production has resulted in a modest improvement in incomes for dairy farms, in 1997- 98, despite lower manufacturing milk prices in some states. This continues the overall *’ improvement in dairy farm incomes that has been evident since the mid-1980s’, Dr Fisher

added.

The report also presents results from surveys of the cotton industry, horticulture farms and an expanded survey of irrigation farming in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland. ‘W ater policy reforms currently being implemented will have widely varying

impacts on irrigation farmers. The physical and financial data collected on irrigation farming through this survey are being made available to all stakeholder groups and provide a sound basis for analyses of farm level and regional impacts of a number of the water policy changes’, D r Fisher said.

The report contains summary results from a number of additional questions included in the 1997 ABARE farm surveys, including the breed, sex and age composition of the Australian beef herd, which has changed in recent years in response to changes in markets; modification of cropping, grain handling and storage practices by farms to meet the requirements of grain buyers; management and training in the Australian beef industry; and the employment patterns for men and women in farming.

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The report also contains an analysis of the use of computers by broadacre and dairy farms that indicates computer use on farms has more than doubled since 1993-94. In 1996-97, over a third of Australian broadacre and dairy businesses used a computer, with the highest percentage of users being in the crops industry. Farmers reported that a lack of technical familiarity was a major factor limiting wider use of computers, while problems with phone services were important in limiting greater use of modems.

In releasing the report, Dr Fisher acknowledged the financial assistance to ABARE’s 1997 farm surveys program by the International Wool Secretariat, the Grains Research and Development Corporation, the Meat Research Corporation and the Dairy Research and Development Corporation. The extended surveys of irrigation farming in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland were partly funded by a consortium of New South

Wales government agencies as part of a project under the Murray Darling 2001 initiative.

For further information, contact Peter Martin (02) 6272 2363. For copies of the 1998 Australian Farm Surveys Report, contact Denise Flamia (02) 6272 2211. For general media inquiries contact Margaret Day (02) 6272 3347 or after hours on (018) 487 825.