2017 Annual Report
Excerpt from the Chair’s Report
2016/17 was the first complete financial year of our Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) operation under the current program deed and, as expected, saw us refining and fine tuning our expanded RFCS operations to ensure efficient and appropriate service delivery across the RFCS Victoria – North West region.
Geographically our region is notionally categorised into three key areas: northern; central and southern. The northern region, capturing the Sunraysia, Mallee Track and Mallee locales experienced good rainfall, temperatures and production, marred by only the one isolated adverse climatic event. Broad-acre cropping and livestock production was generally very good, with the only real dampener being cereal grain prices and a lack of grain storage. The irrigated industries in the Sunraysia and Robinvale districts all enjoyed water security and historically low to average prices for allocation. Production for all viticulture and horticulture crops was good to very good and reasonable to strong prices (dried fruit, quality table grapes, citrus and nuts) assisted most producers to enjoy an average to good year. The wine grape industry is still mixed in terms of break-even potential despite modest price improvements across most varieties.
The central region, taking in Swan Hill and the Southern Mallee experienced favourable climatic conditions and production across all industries. There was concern that increased mice activity could cause havoc in broad-acre farming, but instances of serious grain loss and a need for re-sowing were rare. While lower grain and fodder prices weakened cereal and fodder producers’ bottom lines, livestock producers were generally delighted with high lamb and beef prices. The dairy industry was by far the most negatively impacted by declining commodity prices across the central region.
Producers in our southern area, which takes in Bendigo and the surrounding north central areas, generally enjoyed good rainfall and production also. Mixed farming, cropping and fodder all yielded well and there was no shortage of feed for livestock. Again commodity prices played a much more significant role in causing difficulty for our clients than climatic or production related factors.
Apart from the cost price squeeze which is characteristic in agriculture, there were two key challenges and drivers of demand in the past year. They were the collapse of dairy industry pricing and effects of the storm event in the Mildura district on November 11, 2016.