Hot, dry weather has seen Australia's 2019 winter grain harvest advance rapidly in the past weeks, but progress has highlighted variable yields.
Scorching hot September weather took a heavy toll on grain yields in Western Australia's northern cropping regions.
The Grain Industry Association of WA made further reductions to its production estimates in November, saying yields in the Geraldton and northern Kwinana zones were up to 50 per cent below recent averages. Yields are relatively better in the southern WA cropping regions, GIWA reported, but still 30pc below average.
South Australia has fared a little better although yields have suffered from the dry spring. The state's wheat and barley crops are expected to be modestly higher than last year, but still 25pc below the five-year average. The dry finish has boosted wheat quality with higher-than-normal protein levels.
Early harvest activity in Victoria has revealed surprisingly high barley yields, despite the dry finish. Victoria's Wimmera and southern Mallee enjoyed a favourable start to the growing season, but crops suffered with the limited spring rain. Some farmers have been reporting barley yields of more than four tonnes per hectare.
It's been a short, sharp grain harvest for NSW grain farmers. Harvest activity has been confined to the southern third of the state, with the drought claiming most crops in the north and central west in the winter. Yields in southern NSW have been broadly disappointing with most farmers reporting worse results than last year's drought-shrunken harvest.
ABARES is expected to cut its estimate for Australian wheat production in the December crop report below last year's 17.2 million tonnes, which was the smallest crop since 2007/08.
Decade-low wheat and barley crops in Queensland and NSW has left northern feed grain consumers reliant on interstate grain supplies for most of 2020.
This is further complicated by the dry spring and the absence of rain to plant summer crops. Chances of a reasonable sorghum harvest now look remote as farmers run out of time to plant in southern NSW and southern Queensland.
Australia's barley framers were dealt a blow when China announced they would extend the anti-dumping investigation for a further six months. China has been the main-stay destination for Australia's barley in recent years, accounting for upwards of three-quarters of total exports at times. Recent declines in Australian barley prices are expected to attract export demand from other countries.