Forecast winter crop harvest saved by barley and canola production

By Rodney Woods

Higher than expected barley and canola production in Australia is estimated to have offset lower-than-expected wheat production during winter, but the nation’s summer crop production is expected to decrease by more than 60 per cent.

That is according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences latest crop report, which said summer crop production was expected to fall by 66 per cent to 878 000 tonnes.

In terms of the winter crop harvest, Australian winter crop production is estimated to have decreased by five per cent in 2019-20 to just under 29 million tonnes, with wheat production estimated to have fallen by 12 per cent to 15.2 million tonnes.

While barley production is forecast to increase by seven per cent to 8.9 million tonnes and canola production is also on track to increase by seven per cent to 2.3 million tonnes.

Winter crop production in Victoria is forecast to almost double in 2019–20 to about 7.4 million tonnes, which is 16 per cent above the 10-year average to 2018–19.

Production in most cropping regions outside of the northern Mallee and the north-eastern parts of the Victorian cropping region were boosted by timely and sufficient rainfall, with production in the southern Mallee, Wimmera and the western districts estimated to be well above average.

While planted area is estimated to have increased by seven per cent, after fewer crops intended for grains and oilseeds production were cut for hay compared to last year.

Winter crop production in NSW is estimated to have increased by 16 per cent to about 3.3 million tonnes in 2019–20.

Despite the increase, this is 68 per cent below the 10-year average to 2018–19.

Area planted to winter crops in NSW was 44 per cent below the 10-year average to 2018–19 reflecting unfavourable seasonal conditions and a significant area intended for grain and oilseed production being cut for hay as seasonal conditions deteriorated.

ABARES acting executive director Peter Gooday said this year's summer cropping season was a trying time for many growers, especially those in NSW and Queensland.

‘‘Summer crop prospects were adversely affected by unfavourable seasonal conditions in December that further depleted soil-moisture levels to well below average in most summer cropping regions and to record lows in some others,’’ Mr Gooday said.

‘‘With the planting of summer crops in Queensland and northern NSW now largely complete, we expect planted area and production to be lower than our forecasts of December 2019.

‘‘This largely reflects seasonal conditions in December that were more unfavourable than expected.’’

Cotton production is forecast to fall by 72 per cent to about 135 000 tonnes of lint and 191 000 tonnes of seed, while grain sorghum production is expected to be down by 77 per cent to about 292 000 tonnes.

Rice production will remain low, about 54 000 tonnes, because of low water allocations and high water prices.

The dramatic falls in production correlate with the reduction in plantings during the summer cropping period.

Area planted to grain sorghum is estimated to have decreased by 71 per cent in 2019-20 to 143 000 ha, while the area planted to cotton is forecast to fall by 82 per cent to 61 000 ha — the lowest cotton planting since 1978-79.

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