Rice, sheep and lamb numbers drop to lowest levels since 1920s: ABS

Posted by Editorial on 18th November 2008

Saltbush Lamb - Bultarra

Continuing unfavourable conditions and a lack of water kept Australian agricultural production down during 2007-08, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. With laws of supply and demand dictating prices, it does not bode well for some food prices, though there were some favourable figures.

Rice plantings dropped to the lowest levels since 1927 – from 20,000 hectares in 2006-07 to 3,000 hectares in 2007-08 – while production was down 86% to 23,000 tonnes. Rice has been one of the few food commodities that has not retreated greatly from highs despite the softening of food commodity prices. The price is still 78% higher than October 2007, after prices skyrocketed late last year and in the early months of this year on supply concerns – this was heightened after export restrictions were put in place by some rice producing countries.

Sheep and lamb numbers – at 79 million head were also at their lowest levels since the 1920s, but plantings of grain sorghum came in at a record high of one million hectares, leading to a tripling in production to 4 million tonnes.

Other notable crop and livestock numbers for 2007-08 are listed below:

* Meat cattle were on par with 2006-07 at 25.3 million head.
* Milk cattle numbers decreased 6% to 2.5 million head.
* Pig numbers were reported at 2.2 million head, a decrease of 16%.

* Wheat production was at 13.8 million tonnes, an increase of 28% .
* Barley production rose by 69% to 7.2 million tonnes, but was still below the average production of the previous 5 years.
* Oat production was up 107% with 1.5 million tonnes harvested
* Canola production rose by 117% to 1.2 million tonnes
* Production of sugar cane cut for crushing fell by 7%
* Cotton lint production declined 44% to 158,000 tonnes, with the area planted to cotton the lowest since 1980-81.