Total production expected to increase slightly, ABARES outlook says

By Rodney Woods

Farmers recovering from drought are expected to edge Australia's agriculture production higher amid the coronavirus-induced global recession.

The latest Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences outlook says higher rainfall is predicted to push total production to $61 billion in 2020-21, an increase of one per cent.

The small increase has been driven by a strong rebound in grain production, which is forecast to rise by 15 per cent to $30.8 billion.

The outlook also predicts price falls for most major commodities.

Livestock production is forecast to fall by 10 per cent to just above $30 billion, ending a run of strong growth, while export values are expected to fall by $2.7 billion to $44.4 billion in 2020-21 as meat exports fall and domestic grain stocks are rebuilt.

Meat and live animal exports are forecast to drop but red meat prices are expected to hold up, with the impact of African swine fever still driving protein demand in Asia.

“With graziers looking to rebuild herds and flocks, slaughter numbers — and therefore exports — are forecast to fall,” ABARES acting executive director Peter Gooday said.

“Replenishing our herds, flocks and grain stocks sets us up well for the long term.”

Mr Gooday said Australia's resilience and adaptability should position the sector well during the pandemic recovery.

“With a few notable exceptions, Australian agriculture has not been severely impacted by COVID-19 and has shown that it can adapt in most cases,” he said.

“Exporters of high-value seafood, wine and meat products did face significant impacts, but have also demonstrated adaptation by expanding online sales and marketing directly to households.”