Farmer confidence improves

Dr William Rolleston

Farmers’ confidence in the economy and their own businesses improved in Federated Farmers mid-season Farm Confidence Survey, released 13th of March 2017.

The survey, undertaken for Federated Farmers by leading agricultural market researchers Research First, had the following overall findings:

  • Farmers’ confidence in the general economy has improved, but remains in slightly negative territory (net score of -2.0).
  • For the first time since 2014, farmers’ net confidence in the profitability of their farms is positive (net score of +15.5).
  • Farmers’ production expectations have increased slightly (net score of +16.8), although this overall increase is carried by dairy farmers, who are the only industry group whose production expectations have increased.
  • For the first time since 2014, farmers expect their on-farm spending to increase (net score of +2.5).
  • For the first time since 2014, farmers expect to see a reduction in farm debt (net score of -15.0).
  • Farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit skilled and motivated staff (net score of +23.6).
  • In February 2017, the greatest concern for farmers is farmgate & commodity prices (selected by 27.8% of respondents) followed by regulation and compliance costs (selected by 17.2% of respondents). At the same time, Farmers perceive the highest priorities for the Government to be to reduce regulation and compliance costs (selected by 16.0% of respondents) followed by general economy and business development (selected by 15.2% of respondents).

“This is good news but the improvement in confidence is fragile. The result was influenced heavily by dairy farmers who saw big increases in dairy commodity prices in the second half of 2016, which have since come back a bit,” Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston said.

“The overall results mask differences between sectors. Dairy farmers are considerably more confident than their sheep and beef counterparts, whose confidence, especially in their own profitability, has if anything worsened.

“This reflects the dramatic improvement in dairy commodity prices in the second half of 2016, albeit off a low base, and slippage in meat and wool commodity prices.

“To illustrate, the ANZ Commodity Price Index for Dairy was up 41% in NZ Dollar terms from July 2016 to December 2016, which enabled Fonterra to increase its milk price forecast for the current season to $6 per kg milk solids,” Dr Rolleston said.

“In contrast, the ANZ Commodity Price Index for Meat, Skins and Wool went down 6% over the same period. Sheep and beef cattle numbers have also continued to fall due to economic factors and the lingering impacts of drought in some areas.

“2017 is an election year and Federated Farmers urges all political parties to look closely at the information on farmer concerns and priorities for government,” Dr Rolleston said.

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