Australia’s 2018-19 winter crop production will fall below 30 million tonnes for the first time in a decade, according to ABARES December crop report released recently.
National wheat output tumbled to 16.9 million tonnes, which would make it the smallest crop since 2007-08, according to the report. Australia’s barley crop was forecast at 7.3 million tonnes down from last year’s 8.9 million tonnes. Canola production was projected to fall to 2.2 million tonnes down from last year’s 3.7 million.
Above average October rainfall benefited crops in southern NSW, Victoria, SA and WA but it was too late for Queensland and northern NSW. Winter crop harvest in Queensland is largely complete and the focus is on rain and summer crops.
However, the massive east/west divide between the 2018-19 Australian grain harvest helps to understate the severity of the drought in the eastern states.
Above average winter rainfall, particularly in WA’s northern cropping areas, and timely October rainfall has resulted in average to above average yields in the west, while the east coast and South Australia suffered below average winter rainfall and one of the driest Septembers on record.
Winter crop production in WA was forecast at 16.3 million tonnes, representing 56 pc of the national output compared to the longer-term average of 36 pc, ABARES said. Western Australia produced 53 pc of the national wheat and barley crop and 70 pc of the countries canola crop.
Poor east coast wheat barley crops have elevated the importance of a good sorghum harvest for northern feed grain buyers. Sorghum values fell by $15-20 a tonne after Tropical Cyclone Owen offered unsettled and stormy weather for the Central Highlands and southern Queensland. Buyers will be sweating that this translates into widespread soaking rain needed to assure a good sorghum crop.
November was a volatile month for barley markets. Barley prices tumbled by $30 to $40 a tonne in early November after China announced an anti-dumping investigation on Australian imports. Most of this was recouped in the following week on trader short covering but values have since eased as the ramifications of the anti-dumping investigations sink in.
China accounted for more than 60 pc of Australia’s barley exports in 2017 and the absence of this demand in 2018 will leave a massive void.
Drought conditions saw east coast grain exports ground to a near complete halt in October. Australia exported 462,000 tonnes of wheat in October with 378,000 tonnes coming from Western Australia and a further 52,000 tonnes from South Australia. Only 31,000 tonnes of wheat were shipped from the east coast, largely Victoria.
Western Australia’s grain exports are expected to pick up again December forward as the new crop harvest starts to be shipped.