Australia's newly started wheat harvest appears, in its early stages, to be echoing the world trend, with Australian Crop Forecasters hiking its forecast for wheat tonnage, but highlighting disappointment on protein levels.
The analysis group lifted by some 2.5m tonnes to 25.9m tonnes its forecast for the wheat crop in Australia, the southern hemisphere's top producer.
The figure was above estimates from the US Department of Agriculture, at 25.5m tonnes, and the International Grains Council, at 25.0m tonnes, besides the 24.5m tonnes expected by Abares, Australia's official commodities bureau.
AOF lifted by 7% its estimates for Australia's barley crop, to 8.64m tonnes, and rapeseed harvest, to 3.5m tonnes.
Good on quantity…
The upgrades reflected an assessment of "spectacular" wheat in southern New South Wales, with expectations increased too for Victoria and for South Australia, where "almost every region is on track for an above-average season"
The estimate for Western Australia, typically the top grain-producing state, was upgraded by 1.2m tonnes to 8.7m tonnes after three successive months of above-average rains erased concerns stoked by dryness earlier in the season.
"A sprint to the finish almost doesn't do Western Australia justice," ACF said.
'Little to celebrate'
The comments came as farmers are beginning the harvest, with Glencore's South Australia-based Viterra business on Thursday revealing that it had received its first load from the new crop, of oats.
In Queensland, some farmers have begun harvesting wheat, although ACF cautioned over findings so far of "below average" levels of higher protein, H2 wheat.
"Harvest has kicked off in the Sunshine state with little to celebrate in the northern regions of Central Queensland and Mackay," the group said.
"The bulk of what is coming in is reportedly ASW," a lower grade, "with a real lack of APH2 and increased APW".
H2 grade wheat requires protein levels of 11.5%, according to grain handler AWB, with APW at levels of 10-10.5%.
The caution over protein, albeit at a very early stage of the harvest, comes at a time when a dearth of high quality wheat is provoking concerns on the international market, after harvest rains impaired crops in Brazil, China, Russia and Ukraine.
"A heightened level of focus has come onto protein levels this season, with a shortage of hard wheat being forecast and premiums [over feed] likely to widen further," ACF said.