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Australia predicts record agricultural production despite challenges


Australia is projected to see record farm revenue this year despite pandemic challenges, mouse plague and trade disputes with China

Canberra, Australia – Australia is projected to achieve record agricultural revenue this year despite the challenges of the pandemic, a mouse plague and a trade dispute with China.

This compares with AU$66 billion ($49 billion) earned in 2020-21. It was also a good year for agriculture that followed a prolonged drought and devastating wildfires across south-east Australia.

The latest forecast is the first time the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science has estimated a return of more than AU$70 billion ($51 billion).

Crops will be the biggest contributor to growth in agricultural exports, which is estimated to increase 17% to AU$30 billion ($22 billion).

A mouse plague reduced grain and hay production in eastern Australian croplands at the end of the last fiscal year.

With bumper crops of wheat, barley and canola ready for harvest soon, there are concerns about how many rats survived the Southern Hemisphere winter and how much the rat population could increase this year.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said a shortage of seasonal workers due to COVID-19 restrictions is a major threat to a successful harvest.

“We are seeing the biggest constraint on agriculture going forward,” Littleproud told Australian Broadcasting Corp, referring to the labor shortage.

Australian agriculture relies heavily on international backpackers to provide a seasonal workforce. But Australia has closed its borders to tourists since the beginning of last year.

Some Australian states also require farm workers to go into quarantine if they cross state lines to find work, leading to labor shortages.

Under a new agricultural visa to be introduced this month, the government expects the number of Pacific Islander and East Timor workers working in Australian primary industries to double to 24,000 by early next year.

Record financial returns from agriculture are projected despite disruptions in exports to China, including wine, beef and barley, as relations soured.

Liquor exports suffered the most due to losses in the Chinese market after the heavy duty was imposed in late 2020.

The report said that export volumes are expected to increase slightly with an increase in shipments to the UK, but the unit price will decline by 13% in the current year.

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