Farmers are feeling positive and looking to spend money as the Southern Hemisphere's biggest agricultural show gets under way near Hamilton

"There's a real positive spin out there," said National Agricultural Fieldays chairman Warwick Roberts.

Farmers had been in survival mode "and now they want to actually go into productive mode, which is quite different".

Discretionary spending such as new vehicles could be down the track. "But they're certainly here looking - I'm sure of that."

The previous year had been subdued, after two years of tight incomes, Roberts said.

Farmers were undertaking deferred maintenance and catching up on spending from the last couple of years.

"Everyone's [this year] talking about doing the maintenance," he said. "The fertiliser guys ... said to me I'm not sure how we're going to keep up with the demand, it's just gone ballistic, so that's great."

Roberts said Fieldays, which started yesterday, was the fifth biggest such show in the world and he was expecting at least 120,000 visitors across the four days.

"Last year probably because of the downturn a lot of them said, 'well we won't go and then we won't be tempted to spend money we haven't got'," he said. "This year it'll be a whole different scenario and feel."

Dairy co-operative Fonterra's last month raised its forecast payout before retentions for the 2010/11 season by 10c to a record is $8-$8.10 with production more than 4 per cent ahead of the same time last year.

An $8.10 payout based on a 4 per cent rise in production could be worth about $10.8 billion.

A report this week by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry estimated the export value for the year ending June for lamb, beef and wool would be up 9.7 per cent, 33.1 per cent and 8.1 per cent respectively at $2.7 billion, $2 billion and $728 million,

Fieldays has just over 980 exhibitors across more than 1400 sites.

"I think that there's a little bit more money around and it's going to be a stunning Fieldays, compared to last year anyway," Roberts said.

"Maintenance is the big thing. You can't just stop spending," he said. "It's a bit like your car, you actually have to put petrol in it otherwise it doesn't run."

The premier feature and theme was "breaking barriers to productivity", which followed on from last year's theme of innovation.

"Innovation was about new ideas and this is about taking those ideas and expanding them into practicalities."

SHOWTIME
* Biggest agribusiness exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere.
* 980 exhibitors across more than 1400 sites.
* 120,000 visitors expected over four days.
* $529m national economic impact in 2009.
* Mystery Creek Events Centre, Hamilton.
* Started yesterday, runs until Saturday.