Drought still the number one concern for NSW rural confidence

Photo: File.
Photo: File.

Recent rain falling across some parts of central west NSW has done little to boost farmers confidence, with a report revealing the drought continues to be their primary concern.

The final quarterly Rural Confidence Survey for the year found nearly half of surveyed farmers in NSW still had a pessimistic outlook on the 12 months ahead.

The percentage of NSW farmers with a negative outlook on the agricultural economy in the coming 12 months fell to 47 per cent – from 69 per cent with that view in the September quarter.

Rabobank regional manager for Central New South Wales Toby Mendl said the results were no surprise, however recent rain helped lift the results from the historical lows at the last quarter.

Ninety-four per cent of those surveyed blamed the drought, Mr Mendl said.

“So despite the rains there’s still a lot more required. Certainly the rains we’ve received have been very happily received, but by no means (is it) drought breaking,” he said.

“There’s still a gap needed to be filled in the soil moisture profile for the summer crops.

“And additionally those of our graziers that are maybe off the feed cart still need more rain, before they get the confidence or they’re not going to get back on the feeding wagon in this short period of time.”

The high cost of fodder, together with the escalating cost of water, was also placing considerable pressure on dairy farmer margins, Mr Mendl said, with 61 per cent of surveyed dairy farmers in New South Wales expressing a negative view on the coming 12 months.

“I suppose the one key ingredient for all of our producers  no matter what commodity is rain. And there just hasn’t been enough over the last 12 to 18 months,” he said.

“In November we had some good falls, including at Orange with five inches (127 millimetres), Dubbo and Forbes received three inches (76.2mm).”

Mr Mendl said sentiment depending on geography, would be mixed as well.

“Some of our more western country, like Walgett, still unfortunately really missed out on anything substantial,” he said.

“Luckily, by and large, the farming community is very resilient. So they’ll plough on, but certainly the last few years has been tough up there.

“The last decent crop they got up there was in 2016, so hopefully that’ll change with the current system and we can have a solid winter crop for those guys next year.”

Mr Mendl said nothing but rain will help fix the situation.

“And the survey did note that 90 per cent of those surveyed are more prepared or have some level of preparedness for drought,” he said.

“So like anything it’s trying to learn off what has happened over the last year to prepare your individual business for future shocks which we know will come.”

While he knows it’s easier said than done, Mr Mendle encouraged producers to stay mentally sound and praised the recent community efforts of hosting drought relief fundraisers, such as the Hay Mate gig at Tamwroth, the Coonamble Raindance Ball and the Band Together Farmers concert at Parkes.

“Its really ensuring that sense of community remains strong. It will rain again, hopefully it’s sooner rather than later,” he said.

This story Drought still the number one concern for NSW farmers confidence first appeared on Western Magazine.