Article – Kimberley pastoralists' profits soar as export market grows

16 March 2015
Stephanie Dalzell
ABC News
Pastoralists in the Kimberley are experiencing a dramatic change in fortune, as demand and prices for livestock skyrocket.
The latest report from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics has shown the average station in the Kimberley made a $650,000 profit last financial year.
It stands in stark contrast to figures from just two years ago, where a typical producer was losing $150,000 annually.
David Stoates, who runs Anna Plains station just south of Broome, said pastoralists had been taking advantage of a rise in cattle prices and soaring demand, with exports jumping by almost 60 per cent last year.
“Higher cattle prices in the first part of 2014 and generally improved market conditions and some moderation in input costs has made for a turnaround in farm cash incomes,” he said.
“It’s been a tough five or six years for producers in the north with very high input costs, of course the closure of export markets in 2011 and the flow-on from that, so it’s certainly a great relief for producers here to see a turnaround.
“The prospect of higher prices this year and in coming years has provided a great relief for producers all over the north.”
However, WA’s north was not the only region to reap the benefits of an improved market.
Record winter grain production, strong grain prices and increased revenue from lamb sales also saw the overall average income for farms across the state almost double to $320,000 in the past two years.
From mining boom to dining boom
As profits rise, Western Australia’s business elite have started to turn their attention from the mining boom, to the dining boom.
Mining magnates Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart are part of a growing number of business heavyweights trying to capitalise on the land.
Director-general of the WA Department of Food and Agriculture, Rob Delane, said while many commodities were volatile, there was always demand for food.
“People are realising there’s been some pretty big cyclic movements in the world recently, just in the last 12 months a real dive in iron ore and other mineral prices and a real dive in oil, and therefore energy prices.
“People are looking at volatility, so they are looking at other investments and they’re also looking at what are the most stable investments.
“Well, people are going to eat … the demand is still there long term.”
Mr Delane said all signs pointed to continued growth in the farming sector.
“Particularly with the strong demand out of Asia, for those investors for the long term, and you don’t go into agriculture unless you’re in it for the long term, then yes it’s looking more attractive,” he said.
David Stoate, with heifer, Anna Plains, Kimberley, Western Australia
Courtesy of ABC News