Sustained dry weather conditions have significantly cut Australian winter crop production, with the upcoming grain harvest now expected to come in nearly 50 per cent below last year, and well below the five-year average.
That is according to Rabobank’s Australian 2017-18 Winter Crop Production Forecast, which said the 2017-18 harvest was expected to come in 41 per cent below 2016-17 and eight million tonnes shy of the five-year average.
Rabobank agricultural analyst Wes Lefroy said Rabobank was forecasting a 35million tonne national grain crop and 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.
‘‘The dry winter and frost in some areas has really taken its toll on wheat, with a 20.9million tonne crop now on the cards,’’ he said.
‘‘This is around 14million tonnes smaller than last year’s wheat crop and 19 per cent below the five-year average.’’
Mr Lefroy said canola had been hit hard with the 2017-18 canola crop expected to come in at 2.6million tonnes (28 per cent down on the five-year average), while barley and oats were also expected to be below average at 7.9million and 1.1million 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 17million tonnes of wheat to be available for export in 2017-18.
Mr Lefroy said seasons in Victoria and the Riverina started strongly, something that was completely different to the west of the country.
‘‘New South Wales is now looking at its smallest crop in 10 years, with much of the state failing to receive meaningful rainfall until October — which was too late for many.
‘‘But it is the frost that has really had a detrimental impact, with some producers reporting crop losses of 80 to 100 per cent.’’
Mr Lefroy said the NSW wheat crop was expected to be 40 per cent below the five-year average at 4.7million tonnes (and 6.7million tonnes down on last year), while it is a vastly different story in Victoria, however, with the state benefiting from follow-up rains.
‘‘Parts of north-western Victoria have experienced one of their best years in recent memory, with early October rains shoring up yields.
‘‘The state’s wheat crop is pegged around 3.7million tonnes, and while this is well below last year’s record, it is 13 per cent above the five-year average.’’
For 2018, Rabobank is forecasting a small appreciation in global wheat prices, with expectations for the Chiago Board of Trade to move to US$4.70 to 4.80/bushel by the end of next year.
Locally, supply concerns were supporting a strong basis for wheat, while local feed prices were strong on the back of record numbers of cattle on feed — especially in NSW and Queensland.