Farmer confidence drops to lowest ebb since 2009 thanks to costs: Feds

by | Mar 11, 2022 | News

Farmer confidence is the lowest it has been since Federated Farmers began twice-a-year surveys in 2009, the January survey results show.

Of responses from nearly 1000 farmers from around the country, a net 7.8 percent considered current economic conditions to be good, a 10.1 point decline from the July 2021 Federated Farmers Farm Confidence Survey, when 17.9 percent considered conditions to be good.

Looking forward, a net 64 percent of farmers believed general economic conditions would worsen over the next 12 months, a 25-point deterioration from the 39 percent in the July survey. Sentiment about general economic conditions is at the lowest level since the Feds surveys began in July 2009, surpassing the previous low in July 2020

“The results are even more disturbing when you consider farmers were answering the survey before the surge of Omicron cases in New Zealand and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both of which will weigh on economic growth,” Feds President and economics spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

While a net 61.1% of farmers reported making a profit, a 5.5-point increase on July 2021, a net 11.2% expected their profitability would decline in the year ahead, 16 points down on six months earlier when a net 4.4% expected profitability would improve.

“We’re getting strong returns on meat and dairy right now thanks to high global demand and food security concerns but clearly farmers are seeing a lot of that revenue going right back out again with higher fuel and fertilizer prices, rising labour costs, and the hot inflation that is affecting every other New Zealander,” Andrew said.

The survey showed a net 52.7 percent of respondents expected their spending to increase over the next 12 months (up from 32.6% six months ago) “but this will be due to higher expected input costs rather than farmers feeling confident to spend and invest”.

A net 1.8% of respondents expected their production to increase over the year ahead, a 13.4-point drop from July 2021 when a net 15.3% expected it to increase.

“This finding is another substantial drop and it was before February’s heavy and unseasonable rain, which caused a lot of damage and loss for many arable farmers,” Andrew said.

Last year’s survey pinpointed the sector’s struggle to fill workforce gaps as a huge issue, with nearly half of respondents stating it was harder to recruit skilled and motivated staff. January’s result shows negligible improvement, with just a 0.2-point decrease on that finding.

“We should all be pleased unemployment levels are so low in New Zealand given assaults on our economy from all sides, but this dire farm recruitment situation underlines why Federated Farmers continues to advocate to government for additional workers – especially in dairy – to cross our borders.”

Asked to list their greatest concerns, those farmers who completed the January survey chose climate change policy and ETS (18.7% of respondents), followed by regulation and compliance costs (13.1%), and freshwater policy (9.5%). This result is unchanged from the July 2021 survey.

“I suspect the global economy will be right up there if the survey were done right now,” Andrew said.

The three highest priorities respondent farmers wanted the Government to address were the economy and business environment (15.0%), fiscal policy (12.1%) and regulation and compliance costs (11.7%). This compares to the July 2021 survey when the top three priorities were regulation and compliance costs (14.0%), economy and business environment (13.1%), and supporting agriculture and exporters (10.4%).

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