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Rain won't mean more grain

Flint Duxfield, Thursday July 25, 2013 - 12:16 EST
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Not all cropping regions will benefit from forecast spring rains. - ABC

This year's wheat forecast is unchanged despite predictions of a wetter than average spring.

Australian Crop Forecasters estimates the 2013 wheat harvest will remain at around 23 million tonnes due to poorer conditions in Western Australia and northern New South Wales.

"A lot of farmers put in a good deal of hectares [in WA], but then we saw two months of absolute dryness which was pretty damaging," said senior forecaster Nicholas Brooks.

"It was fairly damaging in terms of the outlook.

"It's not irreparable, it certainly can come back from there, although it certain does throw some concern in."

While most of the eastern states and South Australia are in a good position following rain in May, parts of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales still haven't received any decent rain this year.

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a wetter than average spring for NSW and Victoria, but grain marketer Peter Burke from Walgett, north of Dubbo, says that rain will be too late for farmers in his region.

"I would say in this district that 15 to 20 per cent of the expected normal sowing area has gone in and 5 to 10 per cent of that on half reasonable moisture," he said.

"The timing of the rain is the thing that really counts. Late August rain might be a little bit too late."

ABARES estimated last month that the canola harvest would be down 17 per cent to 3.2 million tonnes, but Australian Crop Forecasters has an even lower estimate of 2.7 million tonnes.   

About 22 million hectares of crops have been planted, down 2 per cent on last year. Nicholas Brooks says the big increases in terms of planting has been wheat, and barley.

"In terms of acreage, we're looking to see an 8 per cent increase across the board nationally, leading to, hopefully, yields increasing 6 per cent and a 14 per cent increase in production," he said.

With a reduced canola crop and increasing demand from China, analysts say canola prices should remain strong come harvest. But NAB's head of agribusiness Tim Glass says a promising US soy crop and Russian wheat crop means wheat prices could be down as much as $30 a tonne by the end of the year and many farmers are looking to forward-sell.

"Most growers around the country would be approaching levels around 20 per cent forward-sold for this year," he said.

"Some farmers have marketed up to 10 and 15 per cent for one, two and three years out."


© ABC 2013

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