Australia's latest wheat harvest turned out higher than had been
thought, thanks to a bumper Western Australia crop - but prospects look weak
for summer crops, thanks to drought.
Abares, Australia's official commodities bureau, raised by
800,000 tonnes to 27.0m tonnes its estimate for domestic wheat production in
2013-14, making it the country's second-biggest crop ever.
The upgrade, which took the crop 20% above that the previous
season, reflected an improved estimate for the harvest in Western Australia,
usually the top producing state, and which enjoyed a 55% jump to a record 17.2m tonnes in output of winter crops
The state enjoyed "favourable spring growing conditions in
central and southern parts", Abares said, pegging the Western Australia wheat
crop at 10.5m tonnes, up 900,000 tonnes on the December estimate.
The revision more than offset a small downgrade to 6.65m
tonnes in the estimate for the crop in New South Wales, the second-ranked
And it took the Abares estimate for Australia's wheat crop
above the 26.5m tonne figure in the US Department of Agriculture's benchmark
monthly Wasde report, released on Monday, and the 26.2m tonne estimated by the
International Grains Council.
Abares raised its estimate for the domestic barley crop too,
by 925,000 tonnes to 8.55m tonnes, and for canola output too, by 138,000 tonnes
to 3.55m tonnes – upgrades also reflecting increased ideas of Western
However, the bureau cut estimates for summer crops, including
cotton, rice and sorghum, reflecting "low rainfall and heatwave conditions".
seasonal conditions during the 2013-14 summer crop planting window are expected
to result in a significant decline in summer crop production," Abares said.
"The unfavourable conditions have limited the area planted
to summer crops and reduced prospective yields of dryland crops."
Conditions had been particularly poor in the main summer
crop states of New South Wales and Queensland, which suffered "severe rainfall
deficiencies" last month.
Maximum temperatures in northern New South Wales and
Queensland were "up to 10 degrees Celsius above normal", Abares said.
And the "outlook for temperatures from February to April indicates
a slightly higher chance of warmer-than-average daytime temperatures over most
of New South Wales".
On rainfall there is a "slightly increased chance of
drier-than-normal conditions across cropping areas in central and southern New South
Wales and Victoria where chances of exceeding the median rainfall are between
Already, soil moisture levels in the lower layer are "largely
average to well-below average in Queensland and northern New South Wales
cropping regions", Abares said, with levels in the upper soil later "well below
average to extremely low".
For cotton, Abares cut its output forecast by 35,000 tonnes
to 940,000 tonnes, although this revision is less severe than that imposed on
Monday by the USDA, which downgraded the crop by 87,000 tonnes to 893,000
Abares said that "because higher yielding irrigated cotton
comprises a larger proportion of the total area planted to cotton than last
year, it is assumed the average yield will rise by 4%".
For sorghum, Abares cut its production forecast by 320,000
tonnes to 1.28m tonnes – a seven-year low, and well below estimates from other agencies.
The USDA on Monday kept its estimate for Australia's sorghum
harvest at 1.9m tonnes, while the IGC foresees a 1.6m-tonne crop.
The downgrade comes at a time of buoyant demand for
Australian sorghum from China, which uses the grain for making an alcoholic drink,
baiju, besides as an ingredient in livestock feed.
The IGC pegs Australia's sorghum exports in 2013-14, on a
July-to-June basis, at 1.1m tonnes.