Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality

Economic trends and drivers affecting the Wheatbelt of Western Australia to 2030

Ross Kingwell A and David Pannell B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Agriculture Western Australia and University of Western Australia, Baron-Hay Court, South Perth 6151, Australia.

B University of Western Australia and CRC for Plant-Based Management of Dryland Salinity, Crawley WA 6009, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 56(6) 553-561
Submitted: 26 August 2004  Accepted: 3 May 2005   Published: 24 June 2005


Most of the farm businesses in Western Australia remain profitable, with rates of return comparable with non-farming sectors. However, there is continuing pressure on poor-performing farms, as well as a range of social pressures, which mean that there will continue to be a steady fall in the number of farms in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. Most remaining farms will continue to be profitable, due in significant part to successful research and development (R&D). Farms will continue to be highly diversified. We expect the real prices of most agricultural commodities to continue to fall, although we note predictions for meat prices to rise in the medium to long-term. Key uncertainties about price trends include: future levels of agricultural protection in developed counties; the levels of price premia for ‘green’ products; the rates of productivity improvement for agriculture in developing countries; and energy prices. Key uncertainties about R&D/technology include the availability of funds for R&D, and the contributions of biotechnologies. Use of information technologies will increase, although not as much as some expect, and in some cases driven by shortages of skilled farm labour rather than production advantages. The fundamental elements of managing a farm have altered little, and we do not expect them to change in the next 30 years. Successful farm management will continue to depend largely on good decisions about the farm’s enterprise mix, machinery replacement, land leasing or purchase, labour hiring, and off-farm investments. Agricultural R&D should continue to address a diversified portfolio of issues, including attention to environmental issues, but not neglecting the need for ongoing productivity improvements in agriculture.

Additional keywords: future, R&D, social, farming systems, markets, environment.


Sincere thanks to John Mullen for providing Fig. 5. The authors are grateful to two anonymous referees and the editor for helpful suggestions.


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