Australia predicts record farm production amid challenges

Even with a mouse plague, drought and trade disputes, Australia's farmers are expected to sell a record $54 billion in produce this year, the most ever Down Under. Crop production is projected to rise 17%, spurring the record revenues.

By

World News

September 21, 2021 - 9:03 AM

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia is forecast to reap record farm revenues this year despite pandemic challenges, a mouse plague and a trade dispute with China.

Australian farmers are expected to sell $54 billion — in U.S. dollars — in produce in the current fiscal year that started in July thanks to favorable weather and grain prices inflated by drought in the United States and Canada.

That compares with $49 billion earned in 2020-21. That was also a good year for agriculture that followed a prolonged, crippling drought and devastating wildfires across southeast Australia.

The latest forecast is the first time the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences has forecast a return exceeding $51 billion. 

The biggest contribution to growth in agricultural exports would be crops, which are forecast to rise by 17% to $22 billion.

A mouse plague across much of the eastern Australian cropping land reduced grain and hay production toward the end of the last fiscal year.

With bumper crops of wheat, barley and canola ready to be harvested soon, there are concerns about how many mice survived the Southern Hemisphere winter.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said a lack of seasonal workers caused by COVID-19 restrictions was a bigger threat to a successful harvest.

“That’s the biggest constraint we’re seeing on agriculture as we move forward,” Littleproud said.

Australian agriculture relies heavily on international backpackers to provide a seasonal workforce. But Australia has closed its borders to tourists since early last year.

Some Australian states also require farm laborers to go into quarantine if they cross state lines to find work, which worsens labor shortages.

Under a new agricultural visa, the government expects the number of Pacific islander and East Timorese laborers working in Australian primary industries will double to 24,000 by early next year.

The record financial returns from agriculture are forecast despite disruptions of exports including wine, beef and barley to China due to a souring of relations.

Australia angered China by requesting an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wine exports suffered the most due to the loss of the Chinese market after steep tariffs were introduced in late 2020. 

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