By Boyd Champness

THE state of Victorias agriculture was the only shining light in a gloomy national farm performance last financial year.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that Australias agriculture turnover was down fractionally to A$26.6 billion (10.3bn).

All states except Victoria, which increased its agriculture turnover by 5% to A$5.3bn, suffered declines in 1998-99.

New South Wales agriculture turnover dropped by 3% to A$7.3bn; Queensland retracted by 1.3% to $6.3bn; South Australia eased by 1.8% to $2.8bn.

Western Australia declined by a massive 13.2% to $3.8bn and Tasmania suffered a 9.4% reduction to $658m.

The ABS figures also showed that farm debt was still on the rise while the number of farmers fell away and the dominance of the larger farms continued to strengthen.

Australia-wide, gross indebtedness among farmers stood at A$22.2bn, or an average of A$218,000 per farm business, at the end of June last year.

This was about A$600m up on a year earlier.

Farm businesses were paying about A$1.5bn in interest, or an average of about A$14,700 per farm business.