Hopes of a record wheat harvest in Australia are in doubt, with recent weather conditions dampening outlook. Cooperative Bulk Handling (CBH) slashed its figures for the wheat production after frost damage in Western Australia destroyed over 15% of the crop.
CBH, Australia’s largest grain exporter, said this year’s total grain output from Western Australia, the country’s largest wheat-producing state, will be between 13m-14m tonnes, down from its previous estimates of 15m-17m tonnes.
Wheat comprises about 60% of the grain production in Western Australia, which suggest wheat production in the state between 7.8m-8.4m tonnes.
Hopes of a record crop
Worsening prospects across Australia have cooled optimist earlier this month. Nidera Australia’s wheat production estimate in mid-October was more than 31m tonnes, which implied a record Australia wheat crop. And the US Department of Agriculture’s Sydney bureau estimated the crop at 27.5m in 2016-17, compared to 24.5m the year before and 23.9m in 2014-15.
The bureau also expects median wheat yields to increase to more than 2m tonnes a hectare.
But current weather conditions have been unfavourable to wheat production. Spring has been dryer than average in Western Australia and there has been excess rain in the east.
“This widespread late season rain, combined with the outlook for more to come, has placed considerable uncertainty on the quality and yield of the crop in eastern Australia,” said National Australia Bank (NAB) in a report.
NAB said widespread frost in Western Australia was also a worry. “Had the rainfall been more evenly distributed and storm damage and waterlogging less widespread, we would be looking to national production over 29m tonnes, but given the uncertainty we have held our forecast at 27.6m tonnes this month,” it said.
However, the USDA’s Sydney bureau said the “periods of cold and frost in the Western Australia wheatbelt throughout September and flooding in South Australia have not significantly reduced likely production in these regions, while other crops growing regions have experienced almost ideal conditions for the 2016-17 harvest.”