Sustained dry weather conditions have significantly cut Australian winter crop production, with the upcoming grain harvest now expected to come in 41 per cent below 2016/17, and well below the five-year average, according to Rabobank’s latest crop forecast.
In its just-released Australian 2017/18 Winter Crop Production Forecast, the agribusiness banking specialist said while a repeat of last year’s record grain production was not a realistic prospect, it was hoped the crop would at least come in around the five-year average – given planted hectares were only four per cent down on last season.
Rabobank agricultural analyst Wes Lefroy said Rabobank was forecasting a 35 million tonne national grain crop – some 24 million tonnes below last year’s record production – and eight million tonnes shy of the five-year average.
“The dry winter and frost in some areas has really taken its toll on wheat, with a 20.9 million tonne crop now on the cards,” he said. “This is around 14 million tonnes smaller than last year’s wheat crop and 19 per cent below the five-year average.”
Canola has also been hit hard, Mr Lefroy said, with the 2017/18 canola crop expected to come in at 2.6 million tonnes (28 per cent down on the five-year average), while barley and oats were also expected to be below-average at 7.9 and 1.1 million tonnes, respectively.
“In contrast, pulses remain a bright spot, with production pegged to be only marginally down on average, largely due to the 11 per cent increase in planted hectares,” he said.
Mr Lefroy said although national grain production would be considerably down, the export surplus would be somewhat supported by high carry-over stocks, with Rabobank expecting 17 million tonnes of wheat to be available for export in 2017/18.
A country of two halves
Mr Lefroy said while most of the country had been affected by sustained periods of dry weather, the season was vastly different in the west compared to the eastern seaboard.
“In Western Australia and South Australia, the season was dry from the outset,” he said, “forcing many to cut their planned hectares, and with much of the crop planted into dry topsoil.
“But after such an ordinary start, the season recovered, with late winter rain falling across most regions in the west.”
Mr Lefroy said the late-season rain had minimised crop losses, with Western Australia now on track to harvest a 7.9 million tonne wheat crop (around one million tonnes below the five-year average), with much of the Central Wheatbelt anticipating an average crop and the Esper...
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