Rural confidence has edged higher with more than half of the country's farmers looking forward to a cheery 2014.
A slight climb in farmer confidence from the already high levels witnessed previously was found in Rabobank's final quarterly confidence survey for the year.
Showing most improvement were horticultural producers, encouraged by increased prices and strong global demand in export markets.
Confidence among dairy producers held steady, while beef and sheep farmer sentiment remained at similar levels to the last survey.
Overall, only five per cent of New Zealand farmers had a negative outlook on the year ahead with 36 per cent expecting conditions to remain stable.
Rabobank New Zealand chief executive Ben Russell said improved prices for most agricultural producers had contributed to continued high confidence levels.
Commodity prices were identified as the main driver of farmer confidence and the state of overseas markets and economies was cause for positivity.
Russell said overall confidence in the rural economy had climbed, yet farmers' expectations for the performance of their own individual businesses had softened.
He said the slight reduction was driven by a drop off in dairy farmers expecting improved business performance – from 72 per cent last survey to 62 per cent.
''This likely reflects a view that production conditions and pricing can't get much better than they are currently, and so therefore will be similar or not as good in the coming 12 months. This aligns with Rabobank's view that we are likely to see some softening of record high dairy commodity prices over the next year.''
The 55 per cent of farmers expecting improved business performance in the next year was lower than the 57 per cent feeling the same way previously.
Many farmers expected to increase or maintain investment on farms, however, sheep and beef farmer confidence in the viability of their business showed more signs of being muffled. The gap in self-assessed viability between the dairy and sheep and beef sectors continued to be large, said Russell.
- © Fairfax NZ News