Yield drop expected

December 13, 2017

Wheat harvest at David Bailey's farm. With harvest season fast approaching, farm safety is a high priority. Photo: Chris Stacey

While last year’s bumper harvest was always going to be a hard act to follow, unfavourable weather has chipped in to drive Australia’s winter crop production forecast down further than expected.

The Federal Government’s forecaster — the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences — has released its December report which predicts winter crop production in 2017-18 will fall by 41 per cent compared to the previous year.

Forecast production is two per cent below the 10-year average to 2015-16 after being revised down by three per cent from September’s prediction.

ABARES executive director Steve Hatfield-Dodds said yields were expected to be well below last year’s exceptional production levels.

‘‘Favourable seasonal conditions during spring have boosted crop prospects in Western Australia but unfavourable conditions across New South Wales have adversely affected yield prospects,’’ Dr Hatfield-Dodds said.

‘‘Yield prospects have also substantially declined in Queensland over spring.’’

In Victoria and South Australia changes to forecast state level production were relatively small, he said.

Production of the three major crops is expected to fall, with wheat forecast to drop by 42 per cent, barley by 40 per cent and canola by 31 per cent.

Meanwhile, rain during November and early December has slowed progress in peak harvest periods.

Farmers worked frantically into the night in NSW, SA and Victoria last week to get crops off before heavy rain hit south-east Australia.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest outlook predicts December is likely to be wetter than average in south-east cropping regions.

But if farmers enjoy average rainfall across the summer, crop production is forecast to rise by 23 per cent to 4.8million tonnes.

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