Southern crop yields fall with drought and frosts

Southern crop yields fall with drought and frosts


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South eastern Australia has had one of the driest Septembers in memory with no end in sight.

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Expanding drought and severe frosts are now taking a heavy toll on crops through south eastern Australia. Northern grain buyers were hoping for some good crops in the southern cropping zones to make up for another poor season in Queensland and northern NSW.

Adequate winter rainfall had insulated south eastern Australia from the worst of the 2018 drought that had already savaged Queensland and NSW. However, sharply below average September rainfall and a series of heavy frosts have now taken a heavy toll on the southern crops.

Victorian and South Australian farmers were pinning hopes of a reasonable season on good early spring rain to bring crops home. Drought had already spread into the Victorian and South Australian Mallee country in late August while most other areas had escaped permanent yield losses.  These hopes of timely September rainfall quickly turned to disappointment after one of the driest Septembers in memory with no end in sight to the extended dry.

Many farmers in the Victorian Wimmera and South Australian Mid North have elected to cut crops for hay rather than chance another rain that’s needed to see through to harvest. Significant areas of cereal crops have already been chopped for hay as soil moisture reserves dwindled after the dry September. Widespread frosts in late September and early October also hastened hay cutting activity.

Reports are circulating that grain production through the Victorian Wimmera and South Australia’s Mid North and Yorke Peninsula will be one of the smallest in the past 10 years.

Private forecasters are saying Australia’s 2018 wheat crop is expected to fall to around 16 million tonnes on the smaller production outlook in Victorian and South Australia. This is sharply below ABARES September estimate of 19.1mt and 4mt and would make it the smallest national crop in a decade.

Mostly favourable production outlook in Western Australia is concealing the extent of the production shortfall on Australia’s east coast and South Australia. East coast wheat production could fall below 4mt, down from last year’s 9.2mt, according to some analysts.

Rapidly shrinking grain production estimates through south eastern Australia puts further pressure on the vapour-thin supply outlook. Queensland and northern NSW have already been forced to tranship close to three-quarters of a million tonnes of grain, mostly from Western Australia, due to the poor 2017 winter crop.

Northern grain markets were steady to softer last week as prices eased on the hope that storm’s may see additional area planted to sorghum.

There was 5mm to 35mm of rain through parts of the Darling Downs late last week. Dalby and Oakey received 35mm to 40mm of rain, but falls were patchy with Macalister to the west of Dalby receiving less than 10mm.

Australian wheat exports fell to 761,000 tonnes in August down from 1.35mt in July. Australian wheat and barley exports have slowed in recent months as the intensifying drought encourages exports to ease back on overseas sales. Non-Western Australia’s grain exports have slowed to a crawl.

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