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ABARES crop report forecasts another poor harvest for Australia's grain growers

By national rural reporter Kath Sullivan, Tuesday September 10, 2019 - 13:35 EST
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The ABARES crop forecast found that drought continues to hinder production. - ABC licensed

Australian grain growers will produce one of their smallest crops of the decade this year.

Government commodity forecaster, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), expects Australia's total winter crop harvest will fall 16 per cent short of the 10-year average to be 33.9 million tonnes. In 2016-17, it was more than 56.6 million tonnes.

The report, as growers prepare their headers for harvest, found drought continued to hinder production across the country.

ABARES expects Queensland's total winter crop will be 60 per cent less than the 10-year average, and New South Wales' more than 50 per cent less.

National outlook

The national outlook is an 11 per cent increase on .

Devastated by drought, last year's harvest paved the way for Australia to approve the imports of foreign grown grain for the first time in more than a decade.

The Department of Agriculture approved several shipments of a high-protein wheat from Canada, after a NSW manufacturer struggled to source the grain domestically.

Despite the latest forecast, GrainGrowers chairman Brett Hosking said it was too early to tell, if more imports should be expected.

"Late October, November, we'll start to get a picture of what the quality profile of the grain, of the wheat is and that'll be the real deciding factor for importers," Mr Hosking said.

Some growth expected

Nationally, ABARES expects Australia will grow 10 per cent more wheat, 14 per cent more barley and 6 per cent more canola compared to last year.

"Crops in Victoria were in good to very good condition at the beginning of spring thanks to generally favourable growing conditions over winter," ABARES spokesman Peter Gooday said.

Victoria is expected to produce 6.9 million tonnes of winter crop, boosted by a 14 per cent increase in area planted this past year.

ABARES expects South Australia's winter crop will increase 25 per cent on last year to around 6.5 million tonnes.

Last year,

This year, despite a late break, WA's crop will fall by 19 per cent, to around 14.4 million tonnes which is around the 10-year average.

"Early spring rainfall will be important to final crop outcomes," Mr Gooday said.

Confidence levels create divide

The ABARES report comes as agri-lender Rabobank reported a "distinct divide has emerged in confidence levels among Australia's farmers" due to seasonal conditions.

"The divide was particularly evident in the country's grain sector, with some of Victoria's grain growing regions, including the Wimmera, having the potential for one of the best seasons on record," Rabobank's latest confidence survey found.

"[Meanwhile] confidence among Western Australia's growers also found higher ground following June rains."

On South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, grain grower Tristan Baldock said he could not recall an earlier start to harvest.

"It's the earliest I can remember, and certainly in my father's 48 years of harvesting he can't remember harvesting in September before," said Mr Baldock, from Buckleboo.


© ABC 2019

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