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Australian floods to bring bumper farming year
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) March 6, 2012

Drenching rains that have caused widespread flooding in southeastern Australia will bring a bumper year for farmers, the agriculture minister said Tuesday, with forecasts at their best in 30 years.

ABARES, Australia's commodities forecaster, said farm production would jump by 4.2 percent in the 2011-12 financial year and be 5.4 percent higher than that by 2016-17 as the climate moderated and crops thrived due to moist soil.

"Following the wettest two-year period on record during 2010 and 2011 and generally wet conditions in early 2012, the climate is expected to move to neutral or drier conditions in the next few years," ABARES said in its quarterly agricultural commodities outlook.

"The widespread rainfall of the past two years has replenished soil moisture and water storages, which is expected to support agricultural production in most areas of Australia in the short-term."

ABARES said agricultural exports would be worth Aus$35.5 billion in 2011-12 and ease to Aus$35.1 billion in 2012-13. Cotton, grain sorghum, wine, canola, beef, veal and sheep meat would have the best seasons.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said the sector could expect a strong year.

"For the first time in more than 30 years the ABARES survey data shows both strong average farm business profits and positive rates of return for broadacre farms in all states and all broadacre industries," Ludwig said.

"Farm cash incomes in a number of eastern states are projected to be between 20 to 70 percent higher than the average over the past 10 years."

ABARES said the Australian dollar, which has traded near or above parity with the greenback for 18 months, was likely to remain "relatively high" in the next two years at an average US$1.04 in 2011-12 and $1.03 in 2012-13.

"Assumed strong commodity demand, especially for mineral resources, will likely provide support for world commodity prices and, hence, Australia's export earnings and terms of trade," the forecaster said.

ABARES said the exchange rate would ease to around 95 US cents by 2016-17 as increased commodities supplies saw prices drop and the major advanced economies recovered, narrowing the interest rate gap.

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