Smallest crop in decade

By Country News

A combination of extreme dry weather and damaging frost will deliver Australia its smallest winter crop in 10 years, according to Rabobank in its recently-released Winter Crop Production Outlook.

The specialist agribusiness bank forecasts a national harvest of just 29.3million tonnes, down 23 per cent on last year, and described the 2018-19 winter crop forecast as ‘‘one of the worst in eastern Australia’s history’’.

Rabobank’s forecasts suggest if not for the better harvest prospects in Western Australia — the only state where grain production is forecast to increase — the country would be facing its lowest winter crop in the past 20 years.

‘‘For vast regions of the eastern states there will be no harvest, and where there is a harvest, yields will be anywhere between 30 per cent and 50 per cent down on average,’’ the report said.

‘‘Late, to no, season-opening rains, below-average to lowest-on-average rainfall and above-average temperatures during the growing season have been coupled with damaging frost to reduce harvest volumes and affect grain quality.’’

The dry conditions impacting the eastern states — which was partly the result of Australia’s 14th driest winter on record — has resulted in a total winter crop production in NSW expected to be 70 per cent below the five-year average this season.

Victoria was the only state to produce above its five-year average last year, but this will not be the case in 2018-19 — Victoria’s harvest is forecast to be down by 42 per cent on last year and 32 per cent on its five-year average.

Pulses and canola have been hit the hardest across the country, with pulse production down 43 per cent compared to last year and canola down 32 per cent.

Both have been impacted by a reduction in plantings in the past year (pulses down 42 per cent and canola down 20 per cent).

Despite the dreary outlook, the report said reduced national production — along with continuing strong demand for feed grain in the drought-afflicted eastern states — was expected to see record Australian grain prices hold well into 2019.