Farm business numbers plunge 35pc in government budget overture

Farm business numbers plunge 35pc in government budget overture


Politics
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More than 46,000 Australian farm businesses have virtually fallen off the statistical map between this year and last year.

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ACCORDING to statistical figures forwarded to the federal Coalition government in the National Farmers’ Federation’s (NFF) most recent pre-budget submissions, more than 46,000 Australian farm businesses have virtually fallen off the map between this year and last year.

In the document tabled in January last year  ahead of the 2017-18 budget, the statistics section said there was approximately 132,000 farm businesses in Australia; 99 per cent of which were Australian family owned and operated.

But the NFF’s 2018-19 pre-budget submission said approximately 85,681 farm businesses were in Australia - 99pc of them wholly Australian owned and operated - representing a decrease of about 35pc on the previous year’s number.

NFF budget submission stats​

  • 2018-19 - approximately 85,681 farm businesses
  • 2017-18 - approximately 132,000 farm businesses
  • 2015-16 - approximately 115,000 farm businesses
  • 2014-15 - approximately 135,000 farm businesses
  • 2011 - 135,996 farm businesses

Despite the dramatically reduced number of farm businesses, the next segment of the document was identical to that of previous years.

“Each Australian farmer produces enough food to feed 600 people, 150 at home and 450 overseas - Australian farms produce around 93 per cent of the total volume of food consumed in Australia,” it said.

Dipping back a little further into history, the NFF’s 2015-16 budget submission said approximately 115,000 farm businesses existed in Australia, 99pc of which were family owned and operated.

The next statistical quote was again identical to previous year’s reference; despite the changed number of farm businesses, falling by 17,000.

“Each Australian farmer produces enough food to feed 600 people, 150 at home and 450 overseas. Australian farms produce around 93pc of the total volume of food consumed in Australia,” it said.

In 2014-15, that line was again repeated but that year’s document said there was an increase, to approximately 135,000 farm businesses in Australia, 99pc of which were family owned and operated.

The NFF’s 2011 pre-budget submission said there were approximately 135,996 farm businesses in Australia, 99pc of which are family owned and operated, utilising approximately 54pc of Australia’s landmass.

It also said the gross value of Australian farm production in 2008-09 was $41.8 billion a-year.

“However, when factoring in the vital value-adding activities that occur to farm outputs post farm-gate, and the value of all the economic activities supporting farm production in the farm-input sector, agriculture has averaged a contribution of 12.1pc of GDP (approximately $103 billion in 2004-05 dollar terms) in the six years ending 2003-04.”

That year’s report referenced the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Australian Farm Institute as sources for its statistics.

In response to an inquiry about the 35pc drop in farm business numbers, the NFF said the ABS had changed the way it measured a farm business in its Agricultural Census and Land Management Practices Survey, where the Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations was increased from $5000, as used in the data collection process for previous surveys, to $40,000 or greater.

This year’s NFF pre-budget submission said together with vital value-adding processes for food and fibre, after it leaves the farm, along with the value of farm input activities, agriculture’s contribution to GDP averaged out at around 12pc (over $155b).

Employment figures were also worth noting in various recent submissions.

This year it said the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed approximately 304,200 employees, including full time (217,000) and part time employees (87,200).

They year before it said the sector employed approximately 323,000 employees, including owner managers (174,800) and non-managerial employees (148,300).

The 2011 submission said as of November 2009, 318,000 people were directly employed in Australian agriculture which had decreased from 385,000 (20pc) in 2001-02.

The 2017-18 submission also said Australian agriculture was “self-reliant, only deriving 1.34pc of its income from government support, compared with 9.44pc for the US and over 60pc for some European countries”.

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