WA farmer confidence slumps but rain lifts hopes for season ahead

One of the state's driest autumns on record has seen confidence slump among Western Australian farmers in the past quarter, however the late arrival of "game changing" rainfall in recent days has rallied hopes for the year ahead.

After a year in which WA had posted its 'most valuable harvest on record', the latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey found a substantial waning in sentiment among WA's rural sector in the past quarter, as farmers anxiously awaited autumn rains, entering the cropping season with severely depleted soil moisture levels.

Farmer confidence had declined considerably from the highs of late 2018 and early 2019 - with this quarter's survey reporting a net WA rural confidence index of -8 per cent, down from +6 per cent last quarter.

The survey, completed last month, had found substantially more WA farmers were pessimistic about the outlook for the coming 12 months, with 28 per cent holding a negative view, up from 18 per cent last quarter.

Those with a positive view had also declined to 20 per cent, from 24 per cent previously, although 46 per cent still expected similar conditions to the previous year.

Rabobank WA regional manager Steve Kelly said recent major weather fronts may prove to be a game changer for the prospects of the state's agricultural sector this year.

Mr Kelly said some areas of WA had experienced their driest five months on record to May this year.

"For grain growers - particularly in the northern Wheatbelt - it has been one of the worst starts to a planting season we've seen and many had elected to dry seed in the hope of late rain," he said. \

"Across the grain-growing regions we have seen a lot of shifting out of canola and a lot of dry seeding for the start of the season.

"However, the weather fronts that have come across the state in recent days have brought very widespread rainfall across many regions and have really put WA back in the game."

He said the recent rainfall would provide enough moisture in many areas to allow dry seeded crops to get out of the ground.

"There is now some sort of a chance for an average crop for parts of the wheatbelt, although follow-up rain will be even more critical than ever to see the crops along," he said.

And although parts of the south-eastern wheatbelt and Esperance did miss out on significant rainfall Mr Kelly said crops in some parts of the Esperance region still had an opportunity if a later finish to the season eventuated.