By Boyd Champness

ABARE, the Australian Governments agricultural forecasting body, has confirmed the industrys worst fears with its annual predictions – the majority of farmers are going to lose money this year.

According to ABARE, Australias crop and grain growers are the only farmers expected to make a profit in the 1998-99 financial year, which ends on 1 June.

ABARE believes that most farmers could expect to make significant “farm business” losses this year.

“Unfortunately, there are very few bright spots on the horizon,” the executive director of ABARE, Dr Brian Fisher, told The Age newspaper.

Woolgrowers are predicted to lose the most money, recording an average loss of A$28,900 (£11,200 or US$18,300).

Sheep and beef farmers are expected to lose A$17,800, although that was down on the A$22,000 lost in the previous financial year, ABARE said.

The farm business profit for Australias beef producers is projected to improve markedly this financial year. Average losses are expected to drop from A$16,390 in 1997-98 to A$3900 for 1998-99, the paper reports.

Broad-acre farmers are tipped to lose A$3100 for 1998-99; dairy farmers will almost return to the black, losing just A$200; and mixed livestock and cropping farms will lose A$700.