Australian farms have lost on average almost $30,000 each a year in profits over the past 20 years due to climate change, relative to earnings in the latter part of last century, says the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
- Farmers have been losing, on average, $29,200 per farm, every year due to changing climate conditions
- ABARES’ latest report says growers are adapting to weather, growing more from less
- It predicts the average farm size could increase as farmers meet the challenges of climate change
In its latest report, ABARES finds that the decline in rainfall from 2001 to 2021, compared to 1950-2000, saw farm profits reduced, on average, by 23 per cent, or $29,000, as the risk doubled of farmers receiving very low returns due to climate variability.
But it also found that Australian farm productivity had significantly increased, with broadacre farmers producing almost 30 per cent more than they did in 1989.
ABARES’ executive director Jared Greenville said the research had shown that, over the same period, despite the weather challenges, grain growers had increased productivity by 68 per cent.
“New technologies and practices mean that farmers are able to grow crops under lower rainfall conditions than they could in the past,” Dr Greenville said.
What future looks like
The report has also made projections about the pressure climate change could place on Australian farmers in the next 30 years.
It says cropping farms in Western Australia would be “more heavily impacted than other regions under most climate scenarios, due largely to the more substantial projected declines in winter rainfall and the resulting effects on crop yield”.
For livestock producers, ABARES forecast the impact of climate change would not be as great and more likely to be most severe on the northern edge of WA’s cropping zone, parts of New South Wales and central Queensland.
The ABARES report said that, while technology was likely to drive productivity gains further, “Climate change could still reduce the international competitiveness of Australian farmers, relative to other nations, particularly if Australia’s main competitors are not affected by climate change to the same extent.”
Pressure on smaller farms
ABARES said that it was likely smaller farmers would face greater pressure from climate change compared to larger farms and that the average farm size could grow.
Other major changes forecast for Australian farms as result of climate change included investment in on-farm grain storage and other climate-change mitigation tools.
The report has been released as the federal government calls for expressions of interest for its drought-resilience innovation grants, which will be funded by the Future Drought Fund.
That fund has set aside $34 million for the latest round of grants.