2018, Volume 21, Paper 16
ISSN: 2209-6612

The Future of Public Sector Forecasting in Australian Agriculture

Rohan Nelson – Senior Economist, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra.

This paper is a slightly revised version of an ABARES Research Report, reproduced with permission. The full citation is: Nelson, R 2018, The future of public sector forecasting in Australian agriculture, ABARES research report 18.14, Canberra, November. CC BY 4.0. https://doi.org/10.25814/5becfadb45811. ISBN 978-1-74323-403-7. ISSN 1447-8358. This publication is available at agriculture.gov.au/publications. All of the acknowledgements and disclaimers noted in the ABARES report also apply to this version.


Public sector forecasts for Australian agriculture have almost exclusively been provided by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE, 1945–1987) and its successors, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE, 1987–2010) and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES, from 2010). The idea of creating a BAE was initially driven by the need to provide an evidence base for policy development. The Bureau’s flagship publication, the Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics, was first published in January 1948 and included quarterly updates of expected trends in agricultural markets.

Since then the operating and policy context of Australian agriculture has changed dramatically. Public investment in agricultural forecasting fell from the 1990s onwards as technology made forecasting more efficient and as agriculture’s falling share of the economy reduced its priority within government. The acceleration of global change into the 21st century brings into question the future role of public sector forecasting in Australian agriculture and what these forecasting services should look like into the future.

Policy demand for agricultural forecasts has remained strong into the 21st century. The growing sophistication of forecast users and the development of web-based technologies suggests that public sector forecasting services could focus more on providing the data and intermediate analyses that users need to produce their own forecasts. Further, the progress of globalisation suggests that future forecasting services could support a broader suite of agricultural businesses by forecasting prices along vertically integrated value chains. Finally, evolving a complementary focus on foresighting is likely to help agricultural business explore significant new investments and plan forays into unfamiliar markets.

Key words: agriculture, forecasting, policy development, public good, foresighting

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