Drought cattle eating sugarcane on a Greenvale property, west of Townsville.
Drought cattle eating sugarcane on a Greenvale property, west of Townsville.

Drought scarcity to push up cattle and cane prices

LACK of rain and turbulent export markets have taken their toll on Australia’s farming sector, and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences has said the next few months could be only marginally better for cattle and cane producers.

The bitter pill of the September agricultural commodities outlook for the nation shows last financial year’s farm production levels were the lowest since the Millennium Drought in 2009-10, and production this financial year is expected to decline by a further 5 per cent to $59 billion.

The ABARES report said the main driver of the decline was poor growing conditions, with the inland parts of the region in drought.

But it said scarcity may lead to some positive trends, with both sugar and beef prices expected to rise in the next financial year.

High global demand combined with a lower supply of cattle in saleyards is expected to push up beef and veal prices by 8 per cent, the report said.

Sugar prices were also expected to increase, but only by 1 per cent.

“World consumption is forecast to exceed production for the first time in two years, placing some upward pressure on prices,” the report said. “However, high carry-over stocks will provide a substantial buffer against any substantial rise in prices.”

For cane growers, the slight rise in commodity price was unlikely to compensate for historically low prices.

Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert said export and rural development grants had offered practical support for farmers looking to take on the international market.
Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert said export and rural development grants had offered practical support for farmers looking to take on the international market.

Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert said the region’s sugar and beef producers were looking further afield in their mission to sell their products.

Ms Gilbert said export and rural development grants had offered practical support for farmers expanding their business and looking to put their produce on dinner plates around the world.

“Innovation is a great driver of this success,” she said.

Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said $5.7 billion worth of Queensland beef, and $62.5 million worth of sugar was exported last financial year.

With much of the exports driven by demand from Asia, Mr Furner said, “not only is Queensland helping to feed the rest of Australia, but our farmers are continuing to make inroads into some of the biggest markets around the world.”