Australia agribusiness outlook 2024: Moving confidently into 2024

Here are the main highlights for some of Australia’s key commodities for 2024. The full report provides an overview of the developments to watch in the upcoming months.

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2024 will once again be an interesting year for Australia’s agriculture and food industry. El Niño didn’t turn out as bad as feared, with significant rain received across the eastern half of the country in January. Agri commodity prices are well down from the highs seen over the past two years, but Rabobank’s Commodity Price Index forecast is more positive for 2024 and farm input costs, like fertilisers and plant protection chemicals, should be more pleasant for the farming sector.

Interest rate cuts are on the cards in Australia for late 2024, but global economic headwinds are likely to continue. The global economic outlook for 2024, while better than 2023, is still subdued. China’s economy is likely to remain slow, which isn’t the best setup for our exports to the region, as Chinese consumer demand will need more time to gear up into full swing. The Australian dollar is seen as strengthening modestly against the US dollar towards USc 70 towards late 2024, which would be close to the top end of the USc 63-USc 72 range seen last year. The good news for those with loans and mortgages is that interest rates are expected to plateau for most of the next six months, before rate cuts come in towards the last quarter of the year. The tight labour market will continue and require an ongoing focus to invest in labour efficiency technologies.

El Niño is still with us, but several models increase the chances of the event potentially ending in Australia’s autumn or winter. For now, we have to plan with a rain outlook that might be weaker than the strong seasons of 2021 and 2022. And if the 2023 season is any indicator for 2024, the outlook is also far from given. January rains were problematic for some, causing flooding and problems for sectors like fresh produce. Still, they improved the confidence in major sectors.

Major agricultural sectors move confidently into 2024. Recent rains in a declared El Niño period have established more confidence. Grain farmers are likely to plan more optimistically for the purchase of farm inputs and the upcoming planting period of winter crops like wheat, barley, and canola. Especially in the growing areas outside WA, which was the only region that hasn’t received much rain. Also, for beef and sheep producers the outlook for farm-grown feed in the first half of 2024 overall looks more promising, allowing them to hold on to more of their livestock and changing the feeding pattern and the marketing period e.g. by going for heavier lambs for slaughter.

Farm input prices globally, both for fertilisers and for plant protection products, are forecast below last season. As Australia imports most of those products and continues to work through local inventories, we remain confident that costs on farm will look better than last year. However, geopolitics and the escalation of conflicts can result in big energy price swings which would also impact the costs of those products. In addition, we see an upside risk for shipping costs to bring those inputs onshore in Australia. Our global crude oil price outlook also remains rather modest and well below USD 100/bbl, at least as long as the conflicts in the Middle East don’t spread wider.

Geopolitics and shipping to remain areas of concern. 2023 brought more wars, with the conflict in Israel likely leading to another year of shipping delays and high ocean freight costs as more and more shippers take the long route around Africa. The good news for now is that shipping costs are still not as high as in the record 2021 Covid-related shipping crisis. If the Red Sea piracy attacks escalate further, Australia may once again struggle to easily find containers for export later in the year. Australia’s trade relations in 2023 improved with the beneficial removal of Chinese import duties on Australian barley and the tariff on wine now subject to review. But this relationship will remain fragile, and with US elections in November and a potential change of presidential powers, the world will have to brace for more geopolitical fragmentation between China and the US. This will likely also be felt in Australia’s trade relationships with China. The war in Ukraine has been going on for almost two years and we don’t see a quick end to it. Global markets, especially for grains, have found ways to price it in without too much volatility in most of 2023 and this is likely to continue in 2024.

Sustainability, and especially emissions reductions, will remain a key theme for the year(s) ahead. Australia and the world will continue to work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Supply chains are working on solutions, trials, and testing consumers’ willingness to pay. On-farm, most of the transitions are still to come, and more and more farmers seek to understand the emissions footprint of their operations and which changes to put in place.

  • Stefan Vogel

    General Manager – RaboResearch Australia & New Zealand
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  • Angus Gidley-Baird

    Senior Analyst – Animal Protein
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  • Emma Higgins

    Senior Analyst – Agriculture
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  • Jen Corkran

    Senior Analyst – Animal Protein
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  • Michael Harvey

    Senior Analyst – Dairy & Consumer Foods
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  • Anna Drake

    Sustainability Analyst
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  • Edward McGeoch

    Associate Analyst – Agri Commodities
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  • Pia Piggott

    Analyst – Associate Analyst
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  • Vítor Caçula Pistóia

    Analyst – Farm Inputs
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