ABARES work centres around its remit to provide robust and objective data, research, analysis, and advice that informs government policy and private decisions affecting Australia’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry, and water resources.
Before setting our research priorities for the year ahead, we consult with stakeholders within and beyond the department to identify current and emerging issues over the next three-to-five years. We use this process to shape and focus our near-term research and other activities, including the development of new research and analytical capacity where required. This also helps identify opportunities for collaboration with our stakeholders and other research organisations.
This work plan sets out the key activities across each of the areas of focus to be completed in 2021-22. ABARES will also continue to make investments to be future ready to drive enhanced outcomes for government and industry.
Agriculture and land
- Forecasts: Publish quarterly Agricultural Commodities Report and the Australian Crop Report which provide short- and medium-term forecasts of production, gross value of production and exports for the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sector. This provides an evidence base to support domestic and trade policy, including monitoring drivers and progress to the Ag2030 target, as well as public good information for industry decisions.
- Climate conditions: Regular monitoring and reporting on climatic conditions that affect agriculture including the Weekly Australian Climate, Water and Agriculture Update.
- Outreach: Conduct national and regional outlook conferences (online and in-person), and convene the issue specific online Perspectives seminar series. These public events allow private and public sector stakeholders to engage with our work and discuss emerging and key sectoral issues and for us to gain their insights on key challenges.
- Primary producer surveys: Undertake surveys covering the broadacre, dairy, sugar cane, some irrigation sectors in the Murray-Darling Basin and selected Commonwealth fisheries. Undertake more specific surveys to better understand labour use and issues on Australian farms. ABARES farm survey data, and the models constructed using the data, are key resources for our department in measuring and understanding industry performance, the impacts of major events such as COVID, drought and trade disruptions, and for evaluating policy responses.
- Farm performance data: Publish in-depth and statistically robust farm performance data such as farm cash income, return on capital, debt and total factor productivity. Publish outputs and analysis using interactive data tools.
- Agricultural labour: Publish data and analysis associated with surveys of labour use on farms through interactive tools. Build new capability in forecasting farm labour demand and quantifying the off-farm agricultural workforce. This information will help the Government and industry better understand agricultural workforce issues.
- Fishery Status Reports: Produce the annual Fishery Status Reports (FSR) 2021. The FSR provides an independent assessment of the biological status of fish stocks and the economic performance of fisheries managed by the Australian Government. It provides transparency on the performance of Commonwealth fisheries management.
- Science engagement for Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMOs): Lead the science elements for Australia in five RFMOs. This includes scientific analyses, briefing, advice and development of Australian positions, including in relation to stock status, harvest strategies, reference points, allocation negotiations and management approaches; fulfilling Australia's obligations with respect to science and data; and contributing to Australia's broader geo-strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific.
- National Recreational Fishing Survey: In partnership with the University of Canberra, ABARES will deliver a national social and economic survey of recreational fishers. Results from this project will be published in 2022 and include a description of the social and economic value of recreational fishing around Australia. This information will support resource sharing discussions.
- Shark Assessment report 2022: Deliver on the Australian Government’s requirements under the UNFAO’s International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks and in support of review of Australia’s National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
- Fisheries and aquaculture statistics: Provide data on the gross value of production (GVP) of Australian fisheries as well as trade, employment and recreational fishing information. The GVP data is used for the determination to calculate the Research and Development Corporation (RDC) levies for industry.
- Forest extent and use: Ongoing updates of the National Forest Inventory (NFI) as the authoritative national repository on Australia’s forest data. The NFI supports forest related policy development, decision making, monitoring and reporting.
- Forest reporting: Development of a new approach for Australia’s state-of the-forests reporting that will be web-first and regularly updated to provide more timely and accessible information on Australia’s forests. Indicators to be updated and published first include those on genetic resources, areas managed for protection of biodiversity, forest burnt, forest species and their threats, and change in forest area.
- Sustainable forest management: Provide advice to the department on Australia’s sustainable forest management and forest-related issues and trends.
- Forest Genetics Resources: Deliver Australia's country report to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Australia’s Forest Genetics Resources to meet reporting commitment to the United Nations as identified in the Department’s International Strategy.
- National and international engagement: Engagement in national committees and international forums relevant to forestry to connect with and understand our stakeholders, partners and communities. Key examples include the National Forest Inventory Steering Committee, Montreal Process Implementation Group for Australia, Forestry and Forest Products Committee, United Nations Forum on Forests and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
- Forest industry data and outlook: Publication of data and analysis including the 5 yearly Australian Plantation Statistics and Log Availability Report, Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics, gross value of production estimates, Forests at a Glance and forecasts of production and exports for major forestry commodities. This information is used by policy makers and industry representatives to assess the current state of industry and to inform decisions on trends and drivers of change.
- Land use mapping: Continue the ongoing process to produce updated national land use maps and datasets in partnership with the Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Program. These describe the use of land for conservation and natural environments, production from dryland or irrigated agriculture and plantations, intensive uses (including urban) and water features.
- National Land Account: Construct the land tenure and land use spatial datasets for the next ABS/DAWE National Land Account as a part of the system of Environmental-Economic Accounting.
- Land and soil management: Develop a National Land Management Classification System in consultation with key stakeholders for the National Soil Strategy and the implementation of the Pilot Soil Monitoring and Incentives Program. This framework will enable the department to capture, map and track land management practices across Australia and their effect on soil health to provide an evidence base for sustainable land management.
- Groundcover reporting: Apply metrics developed with natural resource management (NRM) groups, CSIRO and NSW DPIE to time series of fractional vegetation cover. These are used for reporting on agricultural land protected from erosion for the Regional Land Partnerships (National Landcare Program) and as an environmental indicator of drought resilience for the Future Drought Fund.
- Multi-criteria analysis software: Develop a new version and data pack for ABARES multi-criteria analysis software (MCAS-S). MCAS-S allows users to overlay different spatial layers to help decision making. For example, helping to target surveillance efforts for a disease or pest incursion by analysing where the vulnerable crop is grown, the preferred climatic conditions of the disease or pest or other factors.
- Strategic trade policy analysis: Assess trade impacts from international climate related trade policies on Australian agriculture, using ABARES models and models developed in collaboration with CSIRO. This work will explore the implications for Australia’s agricultural trade of trade-related climate and other policy responses in major markets.
- Understanding export growth: Review of the economic factors that have supported Australia’s agricultural export growth following biosecurity market access. This project includes a framework and 4 case studies which inform DAWE’s trade expansion initiatives.
- Regional trade policy analysis: Analysis of issues related to regional trade agreements to support the department’s engagement with industry and communicate the benefits to the agricultural sector from participation in regional trade agreements.
- Bilateral trade policy analysis: Analyse bilateral markets through exploring the potential implications to Australia from changes in agricultural market and trade policy settings. This will inform the department of the implications of potential policy changes for Australian agriculture.
- Surveillance design and analysis: Finalisation of a study to inform the allocation of Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) plant health surveillance resources using an ABARES developed portfolio allocation method and the finalisation of guidelines on requirements for general surveillance programs.
- Eradication decision-making: Development of models to inform eradication decision-making for plant and animal pests and diseases.
- Risk and compliance-based sampling design: Improving underlying methodology for determining sampling rates, including sampling under compliance-based inspection schemes and bulk sampling. This work feeds into several specific questions being asked by a range of biosecurity areas in the department.
- Invasive and established pests and weeds research: Data collection and analysis to: provide an understanding of the distribution of established vertebrate pests and established weeds; improve current estimates of the economic, non-market and social impacts of established vertebrate pests and established weeds; update landholder pest and weed management information; and improve understanding of landholder pest and weed management issues.
- Resource allocation and cost-benefit analysis: Decision support through: analysis of the economic impacts of African Swine Fever (ASF); conducting of a workshop exploring Transition to Management using ASF as a test case for an emergency animal disease incursion as part of Exercise Razorback; analysis of the economic impacts of Medfly to contribute to national decisions about management of Medfly and whether eradication is economically feasible.
- Marine pest research and analysis: Providing an updated domestic ballast water risk assessment to help determine whether ballast water needs to be exchanged on domestic voyages and assessing the implications of the changed approach to the shipping industry; general support to marine biosecurity areas in the department, including development of a shipping routes and traffic GIS and preparation of potential range maps of invasive marine species. The latter will appear in the National Invasive Marine Pest Information System (NIMPIS).
- Water market outlook: Publish two water market outlooks for the southern Murray Darling Basin. This provides forecasts for water allocation prices, inter-regional water trade and irrigation activity based on different likely scenarios of water availability.
- Hydro-economic model development: Start work on developing a new integrated monthly hydro-economic model of the southern Murray Darling Basin. The model would allow for feedback between hydrological and economic outcomes, enabling more sophisticated analysis of changes to water management rules such as inter-regional trade limits, carryover and water accounting rules, and long-term climate change scenarios.
- Irrigation microsimulation model: Extend ABARES FarmPredict model to cover the irrigation sector to allow for analysis of irrigation farm productivity and profit under future climate conditions. The results could indicate which regions/industries/farm types will be under pressure to adapt to climate change.
Being future ready
- Agricultural statistics: support the ABS as it seeks to significantly transform the collection and reporting of ABS agricultural statistics. ABARES will work with the ABS to make these changes while working to ensure that our department retains access to the data needed to perform key functions. These functions include: monitoring and understanding trends in industry performance; measuring the impact of natural disasters and other significant events; and evaluating policies and programs. In the first instance this work will involve: completing a data audit of DAWE use of ABS agricultural data, identifying priority areas and implications of the ABS Agricultural Statistics Modernisation program; assessing and provide recommendations regarding the use of the levies data as an alternative data source.
- Data analytics and infrastructure uplift: Complete work to transform ABARES data and analytics platform, such as through consolidating data in a new data warehouse. Investment will be made to modernise ABARES survey collection software and to build data science virtual machines.