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Australia defies China, plague and flood in $78 billion prediction

The drought seems to be a distant memory for Australian farmers as they enjoy record crops from exceptional seasonal conditions over the past two years – and those records look set to be broken yet again according to recent agricultural forecasts.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) recently released its latest Agricultural Commodities report, which is forecasting a history-making agricultural gross production value of $78 billion in 2021-22.

That's $5.4 billion more than the last forecast.

The strong seasonal conditions, on the back of a surge in world commodity prices, has prompted ABARES to predict the record number while also claiming the value of agricultural exports will hit another record of $61 billion (despite some trade headwinds from China making headlines).

A field of wheat being harvested on a farm.
Agricultural production this year is set to achieve a new record according to ABARES. Source: Getty Images.

As Australia's biggest trading partner, China accounts for over 35 per cent of all of Aussie exports. Despite the country imposing hefty tariffs on Australian exports of barley, wine, timber, lobster, meat, the ag-sector has had a favourable run lately.

But after years of drought slashed agricultural production to record lows and brought Australian farmers to their knees, will the favourable conditions continue?

ABARES Executive Director Dr Jared Greenville seems to think so, saying it will be a year-on-year increase for every major livestock commodity and almost every major crop commodity.

“It would be the first time in at least half a century that production will increase for so many products at the same time,” Dr Greenville said.

“And if these forecasts are realised, 2021–22 will see the largest total volume of agricultural commodities Australia has ever produced.

“This uplift in Australian agricultural production value and volume is unprecedented and the result of exceptional growing conditions here and poor seasons being experienced by key overseas competitors.”

The next winter crop of 2022 is also expected to be a record, with the December Australian Crop Report forecasting crop production to reach 58.4 million tonnes following favourable growing conditions over spring.

“Record production of wheat (34.4 million tonnes) and canola (5.7 million tonnes) is expected. Production of barley is forecast to be the second highest on record (13.3 million tonnes),” Dr Greenville said.

The record levels have been achieved despite some flooding in November 2021 and a widespread mouse plague across much of the country.

The persistent rain events across large parts of Australia since early 2020, largely attributed to the La Niña weather pattern, has ensured farmers have been able to bounce back quickly from the drought and see production levels reach record highs.

A man walks past a water tank located in a drought-affected paddock.
After years of drought, farmers are starting to see record results in production. Source: Getty Images.

For the major winter crops, wheat production is forecast to reach a new record of 34.4 million tonnes in 2021–22, 3 per cent higher than the previous record set in 2020–21.

Barley production is forecast to increase marginally to reach the second highest on record of 13.3 million tonnes, 2 per cent below the previous record set in 2016–17.

Canola production is forecast to reach a new record of 5.7 million tonnes, 27 per cent above the previous record set in 2020–21.

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