Farmers are in no doubt the outlook for the next 12 months hinges on an “autumn break” for the sector at Dubbo and across the state, a new report shows.
The latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey reveals lack of drought-breaking rain is containing sentiment.
The first quarterly survey for 2019 found while isolated storm activity had provided some reprieve, sentiment remained at subdued levels.
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At Dubbo no rain has fallen so far in March, exacerbating already dry conditions.
Rabobank central west NSW regional manager Toby Mendl emphasised producers were on a knife edge.
“After two very dry years, this autumn break is critical,” Mr Mendl said.
“With liquidity reserves starting to run down, management decisions are becoming more difficult to make, particularly at the moment when the seasonal outlook is still uncertain.
“However good autumn rains would significantly change the outlook and farmers are poised to jump into their farming programs with confidence when they get that break in the season.
“That said, it will take time to recover from prolonged drought, particularly in terms of rebuilding stock numbers.”
The latest survey, completed in February, found NSW farmer confidence had edged up to its highest level in the past 12 months, although it remained weak.
A total of 41 per cent of farmers indicated they were expecting conditions to deteriorate in the coming 12 months, slightly down from the 46 per cent with that view in the previous quarter.
While it had been hot and dry, Mr Mendl said, some farmers in central and southern parts of the state had “jagged a summer storm” although it hadn’t been enough to turn around the season.
“Summer storm activity has allowed some graziers to halt their feeding programs for a few weeks,” he said. “This has given some welcome short-term relief from the daily grind and the high feed prices, which are likely to stay elevated until the new crop becomes available later in the year.”