Strong national market for 2019

Strong national market for 2019


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According to the Colliers International Agribusiness Australia & New Zealand Research and Forecast Report, the agriculture industry was resilient when faced with domestic and international challenges.

DESPITE some areas of Australia having experienced severe weather conditions in 2018 and the restrictions on foreign investors buying agricultural assets, coupled with the slowing of China's economy and the United States-China trade war, Australian agriculture proved to hold its ground for 2018.

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According to the Colliers International Agribusiness Australia & New Zealand Research and Forecast Report, the agriculture industry was resilient when faced with domestic and international challenges.

The report found that for farmland that sold for $5 million or more from 2016 to 2018, the market peaked in capital in 2016 with 242 transactions generating $3.5 billion.

The total capital has since dropped to $3.3b in 2018.

The following years of 2017 and 2018 saw greater sales activity with 254 sales above $5m achieved.

This figure does not include three large transactions from 2018 which settled in the first quarter of 2019, but if they had closed in time for the calendar year, they would have pushed 2018 to be the new peak capital year.

In WA, the number of sales above $5m remained constant in 2016 and 2017, then dropped slightly in 2018.

The other States also had relatively stable sales activity of above $5m, with either New South Wales or Queensland being the two most active markets across the three-year period.

Sheep:

Due to both domestic and international supply factors, the Australian lamb and wool markets had a surge in prices in 2018.

The wool and sheep industry has been slightly overlooked by investors, but with advancements in ag technology and an autumn break - which will create high competition for store and breeding stock - the outlook is bright.

Low national flock numbers suggest there is plenty of room for the Australian sheep industry to grow and there will be opportunities to capitalise on high prices, which are forecast to continue into 2019.

The Chinese economy is one to watch as it will have a strong influence on wool prices.

Property prices have steadily increased over the past five years and although drought-affected areas might come under pressure, there are yet to be any noticeable changes at this point.

Land not affected by drought should still see an increase in values.

Demand for high quality grazing assets in both pastoral and high rainfall regions is outstripping supply, which was also the case in the 2018 market.

Beef (southern Australia):

Prolonged drought which is concentrated in the eastern seaboard, South Australia and the northern pastoral region of WA has been the main influence on the beef cattle market.

Due to the decrease in feed, supply of young cattle to market has increased.

On the back of solid finished cattle prices, lot feeders have endured higher feed costs.

Slaughter numbers in 2018 were slightly higher than in 2017, with more breeding stock sent to slaughter.

Nationally, cattle properties are expected to steadily increase in values, driven by lower production volumes as the Queensland market begins to recover and restock.

Colliers expects the 2019 cattle property market to be influenced by global factors set to impact the export markets (about 70 per cent of Australian beef sold), including trade tensions between the US and China, the effects of free trade agreements, exchange rates and increased production from competing supply channels.

Cattle supply and slaughter numbers will depend on the season with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting near-equal chances of a wetter or drier second quarter in 2019.

Demand for good quality grazing assets in higher rainfall areas should remain solid as the appetite for reliable beef production of both breeding and weight gain and finishing operations is set to continue.

The buyer demographic is set to be diverse with corporate, institutional and family enterprises continuing to show strong interest in quality beef properties in southern Australia.

Dairy:

Colliers anticipated there would be more dairy farmers looking to exit the market due to low returns and high cost of production over the next 12 months.

In a buyers' market, those investors with the financial capacity and a long-term view are likely to reveal themselves as buyers.

Poultry:

Demand for well-developed broiler farms - both free-range and closed systems - is strong, as long as certain criteria are met.

Buyers are seeking well-located properties within one of the main poultry production hubs.

Broiler farms need to be of good scale to attract interest, indicatively eight sheds or more and with scope for expansion.

A demonstrated history of efficient production will prove favourable with buyers and farms needing to be securely contracted, ideally to one of the two main processors in Biaida or Inghams Poultry.

Properties that satisfy this criteria attract investor interest in the 11-12pc range, based on capitalising the net sustainable earnings.

As the poultry industry is expected to consolidate into the future, industry investment will continue with bigger players moving into the sector.

Horticulture and permanent tree crops:

Within the horticulture sector, macadamias and almonds are set to surge ahead.

Large parcels with permanent water entitlements will prove most attractive to buyers, especially for those interested in investing in macadamias and almonds.

The stone fruit sector has also experienced a strong, competitive domestic and international market.

Viticulture:

After a challenging decade, the Australian wine industry has exhibited strong growth and looks to be approaching a point where demand will outstrip supply.

This has translated into a significant increase in property transactions, with buyer enquiry focussing on vineyards offering scale and efficiency or premium fruit quality.

Strong interest is expected from overseas investors, particularly the Chinese.

Forestry:

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has predicted the demand for wood products will rise by 30pc by 2050.

Over the coming decades, Australia could see the establishment of about 4773 hectares of new hardwood plantations and 24,009ha of new softwood plantations.

Colliers suggested that the market has increased by 25pc for mature established plantations and expects this to continue for the next few years.

Although Australia's forestry industry is sensitive to international wood product demand and exchange rates, the Federal government policy focus and China's increase in demand has created a very positive property outlook for the sector, in fact, perhaps one of the best seen for many decades.

The Australian agricultural sector is a large contributor to the country's exports and economic activity, contributing to about 12pc of the total Australian export activity for the YoY to June 2018.

The long-term gradual growth of farm production activity and agricultural trade surplus support the view that agribusiness activity continues to boom and provide a solid economic environment for property investment, particularly for offshore institutional investors looking to diversify the risk exposure of their investment portfolio.

However, the consistent drought in many agricultural regions remains as the biggest threat to future investments.

The report made no mention of Australia's broadacre cropping industry as Colliers said it wasn't covered in the company's research.

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