Country News

Drought hits crop production

By Geoff Adams

The impact of the drought has been underscored by new figures showing summer crop planting areas are set to fall 66 per cent over the year, plunging to their lowest level in four decades.

Summer crop production of 878,000 tonnes is forecast in the the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences crop report released on Tuesday, down from 2.59 million tonnes in the previous year.

It is the lowest figure since ABARES started its crop production records in 1980-81.

Peter Gooday, acting executive director of ABARES, said it was an extremely trying time for many crop 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.

"He said the Bureau of Meteorology's latest three-month rainfall outlook indicates that for most summer cropping regions in Queensland and northern NSW, rainfall is more likely to be below average than above average from March to May.

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

Rice production will remain low at around 54,000 tonnes due to low water allocations and high water prices.The ABARES forecast for winter crop production largely remains unchanged from the December 2019 report, at around 29 million tonnes.