Chemical bills soar

17 Dec, 2013 01:00 AM
Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) northern region manager Sharon O'Keeffe.
While glyphosate might be cheaper, the trend to minimum till means we use a lot of it
Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) northern region manager Sharon O'Keeffe.

DESPITE a flood of generic farm chemical brands available at highly competitive price wars during the past decade, Australia's average grain property chemical bill soared from just $44,000 in 1991 to about $194,000 in 2012.

Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) northern region manager Sharon O'Keeffe said while fuel, fertiliser and chemical costs had all made big rises, the chemical story stood out.

"Some chemical products like glyphosate are certainly much cheaper than 20 years ago, but the chemistry we rely on in many other products is much more costly," Ms O'Keeffe said.

"We're also working harder with a wider range of products to kill weeds more effectively because weed problems are more diverse and farmers must act more decisively and effectively to protect this season's yields or avoid longer term weed issues.

"And while glyphosate might be cheaper, the trend to minimum till means we use a lot of it."

The average annual farm fuel bill in GRDC's Queensland and northern NSW region had jumped from $39,000 20 years ago to $98,000 between 2009 and 2012.

Fertiliser costs were up from $33,000 to $92,000.

An increasing trend in farm sizes had accounted for some of the cost hikes, while declining natural soil fertility had generally required more fertiliser inputs.

The GRDC figures were based on average northern region grain and livestock farms of 5400 hectares.

However, Ms O'Keeffe said the trends were similar to responses to GRDC's surveys across Australia where the average responding farm size was about 3400ha.

Farm labour costs were up about 30 per cent on 20 years ago to average $215,000 according to Ag Profit analysis.

Ms O'Keeffe noted the survey responses would have generally under valued the real cost of a farm owner's labour input, especially given more farmers today had tertiary qualifications that could command much higher pay rates than they paid themselves.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

is the national agribusiness writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


17/12/2013 8:08:09 AM

The total chemical blil is irrelevent unless you convert to a $/ha basis. Average farm size grew substantially also in that 20 years.
Bushfire Blonde
17/12/2013 8:27:25 AM

This would not be surprising after all Australia is most likely the dearest country on the planet for operating a business. What a disgraceful situation!
17/12/2013 8:43:34 AM

Well if you double the size of the farm, your chemical bill will increase. Duh!
17/12/2013 9:33:02 AM

A Hectare is still the same size & so is my place.My chemical bill is not .
17/12/2013 9:39:12 AM

Isn't chemical use being offset by diesel use reduction.
Zero till
17/12/2013 6:18:45 PM

If we farmed like most grain farmers did in 1991 in 2013 we would go broke! The system back then was broken. We might be reliant on chemicals now but back then we were reliant on cultivation and diesel. Our soils are in the best condition ever and chemical bill has increased but our farm area has tripled because of no till. It's more profitable and sustainable growing crops zero till. If it wasn't I would be doing what I did in 1991
mike hayes
18/12/2013 4:23:06 AM

Yes and how much Govt duties, tariffs and customs charges are built into these input costs? Not to mention how much Australia's artificially inflated labour costs influence the farm input costs via transport and handling! We already know from RaboBank's Graydon Chong, that our input costs are 6% higher than USA farmers' and US costs are higher than many other producing countries. So once again Aust farmers are being slugged by our urban cousins and our Govt, and yet have to compete on an open global market.


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