Crop forecasts tumble with prolonged drought

Crop forecasts tumble with prolonged dry


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Prolonged dry weather across the northern cropping zones is prompting forecasters to lower projections for Australia’s 2018 winter crops.

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Forecasters are lowering projections for Australia’s 2018 winter crops amid the prolonged dry weather across the northern cropping zones.

Australia’s government commodity forecaster ABARES issued its June crop report where they pegged the national 2018 winter grain crop at 37.7 million tonnes which is close to unchanged on last year’s 37.8 million tonnes harvest. They said national wheat production is expected to increase by 3 pct from 2017 levels to 21.9 million tonnes. Barley output was projected to climb to 9.2 million tonnes, aided by an expected 10 pct increase in forecast barley plantings.

ABARES forecast that Australia’s chickpea plantings would plummet by 53 pct to 528,000 hectares in 2018 resulting in a sharply lower harvest of 616,000 tonnes down from around one million tonnes in 2017.

Queensland’s total winter crop planting is forecast to fall by 16 pct to around 1.1 million hectares in 2018, ABARES said. Slight increases in wheat and barley plantings were more than offset by large reductions in the area planted to chickpeas, according to the report.

Strong feed grain prices are expected to encourage larger wheat and barley planting in Queensland, but in a cautionary note they said low levels of soil moisture are expected to limit the ability of farmers to realise winter crop planting intentions.

Queensland wheat production for 2018 was forecast at one million tonnes and barley production at 280,000 tonnes. Chickpea production is expected to fall to 305,000 tonnes from 565,000 tonnes in 2017 and lofty 1.15 million tonnes in 2016.

Chances of Queensland farmers achieving a one million tonnes wheat harvest in 2018 are becoming increasingly unlikely with no sign of an end to the prolonged dry weather than had dominated the state’s cropping areas over the last 12 months. Paddocks have been left bone-dry from arid weather.

Some farmers are still hopeful of growing a crop into the deep soil moisture remining from the patchy heavy rainfall in February. Farmers in some areas were still planting wheat crop in early June in the hope of cashing in on the record high grain prices brought on by last year’s poor northern harvest.

Expectations that the dry weather through Queensland and northern NSW is likely to continue into spring is also working against northern winter crops.  In its latest climate outlook for the next three months the Bureau of Meteorology said the drier than normal pattern prevailing across eastern Australia is likely to continue into July. They said higher than average pressure systems to the south of Australia is resulting in fewer cold fronts from the Southern Ocean and less rain for much of the east coast.

Northern grain markets remain well supported are the prospects for the 2018 crop outlook deteriorates. Stockfeed wheat bids into the Darling Downs were $6 higher last week to $405 while feed barley was $5 higher at $410. Sorghum prices also started to firm last week.

Queensland and northern NSW grain buyers ignored a sharp selloff in overseas markets last week after the Trump administration pressed ahead with plans to introduce $50 billion of tariffs on Chinese imports.

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