After 10 consecutive readings at negative levels, the survey turned positive in the first quarter of this year, and edged up further in the second quarter with overall net confidence at 13 per cent, up from 10 per cent.
The number of farmers expecting the rural economy to improve in the next 12 months increased to 32 per cent, from 29 percent, while those expecting it to worsen remained at 19 per cent. Those expecting similar conditions slipped to 50 per cent from 53 per cent.
“Farmers are now marginally more positive about the prospects for the agricultural economy in the coming 12 months,” said Rabobank New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris. “The key reason for this is rising commodity prices, with this cited by well over half of those holding an optimistic view of the year ahead.”
Pricing for New Zealand’s key agricultural exports had held up well over recent months and were expected to remain strong moving into the second half of the year, he said.
Charteris cited elevated dairy prices, an improved outlook for beef prices, firm sheep meat export markets, and robust demand for horticulture products.
Abe de Wolde is seeking three more people to work on his dairy farms in 2ic positions but cannot find Kiwis to do the job.
The survey found farmers’ expectations for their own farm business performance were up on the previous quarter.
Some 32 per cent of farmers were expecting their own farm business performance to improve in the next 12 months, up from 26 per cent, while 16 per cent were expecting conditions to worsen, down from 19 per cent.
“Farmers had improved expectations of business performance across all sector groups, with sheep and beef farmers recording the biggest rise and dairy farmers recording the highest overall expectations of their business operations,” Charteris said.
“Horticulturalists recorded a small lift on this measure, however, as with last survey, there were more growers expecting the performance of their farm business to deteriorate over the coming 12 months than those expecting it to improve.”
The lift in farmer sentiment came despite rising farmer concerns over government policy.
Charteris said government policy was the key concern for those with a pessimistic view of the agricultural economy.
He said there were several government policies which may be causing unease among farmers, including the recently finalised advice from the Climate Change Commission which could have significant implications for farming, and worker shortages.
Some 40 per cent of farmers said they have been or will be impacted by labour shortages, with this figure rising to 64 per cent among horticulturalists.