Survey finds farmer confidence at its lowest since 2009 as concerns over COVID-19 loom large

Respondents showed little optimism that things would get better any time soon.
Respondents showed little optimism that things would get better any time soon. Photo credit: Getty

A new survey has found farmer confidence is the lowest it's been since 2009.

The Federated Farmers July Farm Confidence Survey asked 1725 farmers how they felt about the current economic situation.

The survey found a net 28.6 percent of respondents rated the economic conditions at the moment as bad. 

That differs hugely from January, when a similar survey showed a net 24.6 percent of farmers considered the current economic condition to be good.

Respondents also showed little optimism that things would get better any time soon.

"It’s pretty grim looking forward as well," said Andred Hoggard, Federated Farmers president.

The survey found 58.7 percent of farmers said they expected general economic conditions to worsen over the coming 12 months. That was compared to 41.5 percent of respondents who expected conditions to worsen when asked six months ago.

"Clearly, concern about the global economy is weighing on sentiment," said Hoggard.

"The disruption caused by the impact of the pandemic on trade and fears of a lasting global recession, heightened protectionism and trade wars is likely to be a large factor in the negative forward-looking expectations. This fall in expectations is echoing the fall in business and consumer confidence, and the fall in the domestic economy from COVID-19."

Meat and wool farmers in particular were pessimistic about the economy, the survey found.

Hoggard said that while meat and dairy prices were reasonable at present, apprehension about what was ahead was reflected in farmers' answers to how well their own businesses were faring.

Less than half of those questioned (a net 46.7 percent) said they were currently making a profit in their business. That was down from 57.3 percent in January. The data showed 28.9 percent of farmers were breaking even and 10.6 percent were making a loss.

A net 35.5 percent of respondents expected their profitability to worsen over the next 12 months. 

Farmers listed their greatest concerns as being the economic situation (15.6 percent of respondents), regulation and compliance costs (15.3 percent), and farmgate and commodity prices (11.1 percent).

"The Government can't do that much about the first and third of these, with global conditions being the predominant factor. But it can do something about ensuring regulation and compliance costs are sensible and affordable," said Hoggard.