David Chadwick - AJF Brien & Sons

David Chadwick  
AJF Brien & Sons - Coonamble


The Coonamble district is largely destocked. Two things will need to be evident before restocking. The season will need to break properly and the price will need to be at an affordable level, relative to the market on the day, not the promise of things to come.

If not, cash cropping will take precedence which highlights the versatility of the district. Land values are continuing to rise as buyers seek value for money. In a year when “safe cropping areas” missed both a summer and winter crop, perhaps districts such as ours where you can get three to four times the area for the money become of interest. Especially when the versatility of livestock and cropping is considered.

2016 highlighted the ability of the west to recover. 3 tonne/ha chickpea crops and 5 tonne/ha wheat and barley crops certainly didn’t go unnoticed with receivals at GrainCorp’s Coonamble and Walgett sites the highest in the state. Many more thousands of tonnes were stored on farm.

Nevertheless, Coonamble and surrounding districts will be very happy to turn the page on 2018 as will a large part of the eastern states. Coonamble completely missed harvest with many acres being sown on a late June forecast of 100% chance of 100-150mm of rain. What we got was another dust storm and 2mm. In one case a producer to the north of us not only worked his own sowing rig around the clock in the week leading up to the change, but paid 2 other contractors as well. The end result, 23,000 acres sown with no rainfall eventuating.

Producers respond to rain forecasts in not only sowing crops, but selling crops and buying and selling livestock. The same can be said for commodity traders where markets rise and fall in a similar fashion as witnessed with the bull run of the grain market. As agriculture matures with the advance of technology, players attempt to utilise it to their advantage in the way the financial markets and traders do. Perhaps the “buy the rumour, sell the fact” (and vice versa) can work as players seek to get an edge, but as proven this year, it can have very mixed results. Maybe nature’s in a bad reception area and isn’t getting the same information we are?

Politics has been interesting to say the least in 2018. It appears we are in the midst of a revolution, or revolt, whichever it may be. Politicians and bureaucrats have long fancied the idea that we exist because of them and they know what is best for us. After 27 years of consecutive growth, despite 7 prime ministers in 10 years, there is a strong argument that business runs the nation.

The Banking Royal Commission, the Murray Darling Royal Commissions, the growing number of whistle-blowers sacked from the DPE and other government departments have also highlighted some serious underlying issues that threaten our society. No doubt one day we will see a Mining Royal Commission as the close relationship between politics and big business is uncovered. In the meantime, it appears that those that have blindly voted conservatively all their lives have got to the end of their tether and safe Liberal and National seats are falling as the disgust grows. Amongst many other concerns, mining is certainly favoured above food production and there is a great sense of betrayal growing rapidly.

As I mentioned previously, I was at a clients place 5 years ago that was looking to sell his property. He was 65 which is relatively young for a farmer to retire. I suggested to him that by 2050 the world had to produce 70% more food, from a reduced land mass (think urban sprawl) where the average age of farmers is well over 50. Most of the significant production gains had already been achieved and further to that, whilst technology would continue to increase efficiency, it would be at a lower pace.

He looked at me and said “I first heard that sort of stuff when I was 16”. That being said, the future of agriculture has never looked brighter. We have never seen sheep, lamb, wool, cattle, grain, goats all strong at one time. Just add water!

Have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year. May 2019 be a year to go down in the history books and bring great prosperity to all.

December 2018Matthew Thoms