Stock & Land has more on how the too-high Aussie Dollar is impacting the rural sector:
AUSTRALIA’S shooting star dollar has shot a hole in rural sector morale.
Despite good seasonal prospects, farmer confidence is deflating as exports fail to deliver much farmgate price value because our high flying dollar is hovering uncompetitively above parity with the US exchange rate.
Faltering farm commodity prices in the past five months – particularly in the grain trade – have also hit farmer confidence hard.
“Not surprisingly farmers are becoming more concerned with the strong Australian dollar’s knock-on effect on the competitiveness of our exporters,” said Rabobank’s rural general manager, Peter Knoblanche.
NSW farm supplies retailer Greg Rout summed up the mood saying farmers were “a bit disillusioned and frustrated with the way prices are going against them at the moment”.
Although farmers have emerged from the past decade’s drought with plenty of soil moisture and stored water supplies, Rabobank’s latest quarterly rural confidence survey results are dipping into negative territory.
Producers who now expected farming conditions to deteriorate in the year ahead outnumbered those who saw improvements, according to Rabobank’s findings.
Mr Knoblanche said about 28 per cent expected the farm economy to worsen in the next 12 months, compared to 20pc just three months ago.
“Mixed farmers tend to be happier than the grain-only guys but most people are still spending cautiously,” said CRT retailer Mr Rout, who owns Central West AgriCentres at Parkes, Forbes and Peak Hill.
“I wouldn’t say anybody’s beaming with confidence – even after a couple of good seasons – but I’d put the general consensus around 60 out of 100, which isn’t too bad.”
According to Rabo only about 30pc of farmers expected an improved business performance or higher incomes in the coming year – down from about 39pc in December.
About 55pc tipped business performance to be the same.
It’s study of about 1200 farmers Australia-wide found 40pc of those expecting farm economic conditions to slide primarily blamed the dollar and 32pc nominated falling commodity prices.
Although it dipped last week well below recent highs around the $US1.07 mark, the seemingly bullet-proof Aussie dollar was again back above $US1.05 early this week and forecasters tip it will stay strong against the US greenback for at least a year.
However, while Rabobank expected strong investment into Australia would keep the dollar to be above parity “for the foreseeable future”, Mr Knoblanche believed it would soften by mid year on the back of a strengthening US currency and lower terms of trade.
The high exchange rate’s competitive advantage for machinery importers helped drive a burst of machinery investment last year, but newly-elected Tractor and Machinery Association (TMA) chairman, Steve Wright, believed a lower dollar would be best for the farm sector’s long term health.
“Buyer inquiry levels are generally still strong and I think the low dollar will help make 2012 a strong year for machinery sales, but buying commitment has definitely eased lately,” Mr Wright said.
“The dollar’s taken the shine off farm returns and grain prices are not as good as farmers are wanting to see before they commit to ordering new gear.
“And with growers reluctant to sell at recent lower prices, a lot of last season’s crop is still in storage which means they haven’t been paid for their grain yet.”
This is just one of many reasons why your humble blogger has advocated voting for the KAP.
Because Katter’s Australian Party is the only political party in the nation (that I know of) that has demonstrated a firm willingness to take on the clueless blinkered ideologues in the Treasury and the RBA, in order to follow the lead of other “advanced” economies such as Switzerland and Norway, and directly address the problem of a speculator-driven Aussie dollar hollowing out vast swathes of the Australian economy. From agriculture, to tourism, foreign education, manufacturing, and retail.
Journalist and presenter Peter van Onselen recently hit the nail on the head, when he described the AUD exchange rate as “Australia’s most pressing dilemma”.
The “major” parties are unforgivably negligent, and incompetent, in their spineless, mindless obeisance to the RBA and Treasury doctrinal line.
On this single issue alone, they are all wholly unworthy of your vote.
In my firm opinion.