Queensland farmer confidence falls as northern livestock industry faces long path

After a short-lived stint in positive territory at the end of last year, Queensland rural confidence has plummeted this quarter and is now in significantly negative territory as northern cattle producers come to terms with the devastation of recent flooding, the latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey has shown.

Completed last month, the survey found 42 per cent of the state’s primary producers were now anticipating this year to be worse than last, up significantly from 28 per cent holding that view last quarter.

Those feeling positive about the next 12 months also halved this quarter to 14 per cent (29 per cent last quarter), while 39 of surveyed farmers are anticipating similar conditions to last year.

Rabobank regional manager for southern Queensland and northern New South Wales Brad James said the devastation suffered by producers in north western Queensland would continue to be felt for a long time to come.

“After managing nearly a decade of drought, the joy that producers were feeling on finally receiving substantial rain was short lived as falls of up to 850mm fell in just five days, flooding an area the size of Victoria,” he said.

“Early reports are that stock losses could number close to half a million head across 230,000km2, with individual graziers loosing half, to nearly all of their cattle. Depending on the graziers’ location, this will have significant impact on turn-off numbers for the next three years.

“Pasture response will be slow and ironically there will be near need for follow-up rain. In areas where top soil has been washed away and tussocks are dying, it could take years to recover.

“While this disaster will continue to be most acutely felt by the producers, towns and communities in the north west of our state, the magnitude of this event will undoubtedly flow through the beef industry not only in Queensland but the rest of Australia.

“That said, there are strong, resilient operations in the area that are well positioned and supported for recovery.”

With flooding impacting North Queensland, farmers in the rest of the state identified the continuing dry conditions as reason for their negative outlook.

Across the Darling Downs, Channel Country and Central Highlands and Coast, almost 100 per cent of those surveyed who had a negative outlook nominated drought as their primary concern.

“While the Darling Downs and south western Queensland experienced some significant rainfall in October, there has been next to no follow-up rain and falls in the centre of the state have been patchy,” Mr James said.

“There were a number of grain producers who had planted summer crops such as sorghum who are now looking at receiving greatly-reduced yields.”

The drought has also had a negative impact on the state’s cotton producers, where confidence is down substantially from where it was at the end of 2018.

/Public Release.