Crop numbers take a big hit

By Country News

The national winter crop production is tipped to be 20 per cent below the 20-year average, as farmers grapple with drought across large parts of Australia’s east.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences’ latest crop report predicts winter crop production is 23 per cent below last year.

In Victoria, winter crop production is forecast to decrease by 51 per cent in 2018-19 to 3.7milliontonnes, the lowest since 2015-16.

NSW farmers are seeing a similar reduction, with winter crop production forecast to decrease by 57 per cent in 2018-19 to around 3.1milliontonnes, the lowest since 1994-95.

Frost events and the dry season have been blamed for the dramatic drops.

ABARES executive director Steve Hatfield-Dodds said winter crop prospects deteriorated in early spring because of conditions in most cropping regions.

‘‘While production in NSW and Queensland is forecast to be the lowest in over 20 years, we expect national production to be substantially higher than in the droughts of 2002-03 and 2006-07,’’ he said.

Dr Hatfield-Dodds said above-average October rainfall helped crop prospects in NSW, Victoria’s southern Wimmera, southern South Australia and Western Australia.

‘‘However, it arrived too late in other regions to benefit winter crops.’’

WA is expected to account for 56 per cent of national winter crop production in 2018-19, compared with an average of 36 per cent in the 20 years to 2017-18.

National winter crop production forecasts for 2018-19 are:

■Wheat down 20 per cent to about 17milliontonnes.

■Barley down 18 per cent to about 7.3milliontonnes.

■Canola down 39 per cent to about 2.2milliontonnes.

■Overall production down 23 per cent to about 29.2milliontonnes.