AUSTRALIA'S vegetable farmers lost about 8 per cent of their income in 2009/10 because operating costs went up, the latest data shows.The fifth annual survey of vegetable farmers by the Federal Government's agricultural forecaster ABARES was released today, showing the average income in that period was about $142,000 per farm.
That's because cash costs increased 5 per cent from the year before, mostly because of hired labour.
In another negative sign, the number of farmers who lost money grew from 12 to 17 per cent in 2009/10.
On the plus side, more than half (64 per cent) said they still expected to be in the same job in five years' time, while another 22 per cent said they expected to increase production.
ABARES also released provisional data for 2010/11 which showed that average vegetable yields fell by 11 per cent to 28 tonnes per hectare because of heavy rain and floods in vegetable-growing regions.
But average cash income increased slightly to $147,000 because the price of vegetables increased while costs fell.
Australia's vegetable growing industry is worth $3 billion to the economy, or 8 per cent of the total value of agriculture.
ABARES acting deputy executive director Terry Sheales said the survey results reveal vegetable farmers are increasingly diversifying, producing different vegetables as well as expanding into cattle and sheep producing.