Australia's floods, while causing an estimated $2.5bn in
losses, may not have damaged agricultural prospects that much, but the drought
which preceded it did, officials said, slashing by 28% their forecast for the sorghum
The flooding caused last month by the remnants of Tropical
Cyclone Oswald left "limited areas affected by floodwaters for up to a week, and
in these regions some damage to summer crops was caused by floodwater inundation",
Abares, Australia's official crop bureau, said.
But overall, the flooding "has so far caused only minor
damage to summer crops", said Paul Morris, the Abares executive director.
Indeed, the heavy rains - which insurer AON Benfield estimated caused $2.5bn losses in Queensland, the main area affected - improved sowing conditions for late-planted
summer crops, such as sunflowers.
However, the drought, and record temperatures seen until mid-January,
did damage harvest prospects for earlier-seeded crops, by causing "widespread
deficiencies" in soil moisture.
"The 2012–13 summer crop season has been unfavourable to date
for most crops with heatwave conditions in early to mid-January and, until recently,
generally very-much-below-average rainfall across the major summer cropping regions,"
The dryness had hurt in particular prospects for sorghum, in
which the bureau ditched expectations of a rise in output this year –
forecasting instead a 23% decline, to 1.71m tonnes.
"The drier and warmer conditions in late spring and early
summer have resulted in many producers not fully realising their planting
intentions for grain sorghum, and reduced yield prospects," Mr Morris said.
The dry weather came too late, however, to cause damage to
the important winter crops, including wheat, for which Abares nudged its 2012-13
harvest estimate 42,000 tonnes higher to 22.04m tonnes.
Abares left at 20.9m tonnes its forecast for Australian
wheat exports during the marketing year.
The estimate of the barley harvest was upgraded by 196,000
tonnes to 7.06m tonnes, and for canola production by 453,000 tonnes to 3.09m