The wheat harvest
in Australia is ending on a mixed note with yields holding up, and in some cases
exceeding forecasts, but quality continuing to provoke some disappointment.
In Western Australia,
typically the country's biggest grain-growing state, crop handler CBH said that
overall grains production was well on
track to meet estimates of 8.5m-9.0m tonnes, reaching 8.46m tonnes with the
last 6% yet to be harvested.
In some areas, including
Esperance and Geraldton, receivals had already beaten expectations.
Gray, the managing director of CBH's Geraldton operations, flagged that the
site had "noted deterioration in quality" over the past week, blamed on harvest
Indeed, CBH, which handles
virtually all the Western Australia crop, had rolled out more than 100 machines
testing for Hagberg falling numbers, which test for the damage to grain
accelerated by harvest rains.
year many growers were well into their wheat programmes when the damage became
evident, unlike last year when our falling number units were in use with less
than 10% of the crop delivered," said David Capper, CBH's group grain
In New South Wales,
farm officials on Friday nudged higher by 73,000 tonnes to 6.38m tonnes their estimate
for the wheat harvest, typically the second biggest producer after Western
While yields had
been "variable", hurt in some areas by persistent dryness, the state had seen a
"consistent trend of crops on well-maintained fallows and those sown on time
performing above what growers expected", the officials said.
And the dryness
meant that "weather damage to wheat crops has been very limited, with only
isolated reports of low falling numbers compared to the two previous seasons",
when harvest rains meant that "a large tonnage of the New South Wales harvest
'Low proteins in cereals was universal'
officials added that "low proteins in cereals was universal across much of the
state", meaning a shortfall in deliveries of some higher milling grades.
"The percentage of
deliveries into higher grades, such as Australian Hard and Prime Hard
classifications, will be down this year, compared to historical deliveries
across New South Wales."
"The main [wheat]
grain quality issue this year has been low grain protein, showing a consistent
trend right across the state's production zones."
The lower protein
was blamed on high nitrogen prices and "tight availability" of urea at a time
of reduced soil fertility, after two years of bumper yields, besides on "milder
temperatures through grain-filling in spring".
'Good rain desperately needed'
The officials added
that the dryness which had speeded the New South Wales harvest, leaving it
virtually completed, had wrought a "major impact" on sowings of summer crops.
Plantings of dryland
cotton, for which the seeding window is now closed, have tumbled by 76% year on
year, while many crops which have been sown "have continued to struggle",
showing "patchy establishment and now lower-than-ideal plant populations".
"Good rain is
desperately needed across the entire north-west to allow the bulk of the
forecast sorghum crop to be sown and further sowings of sunflowers and
"For many growers
in the more marginal summer cropping regions, paddocks earmarked for summer
crop will now be fallowed through for winter crop plantings."
'Period of strong exports'
the Australian grain handler, raised hopes that crop deficiencies would not
deter buyers, with the Cargill-owned group reporting "increasing demand from
our international customers for lower quality Australian wheat".
While flagging a "reduced"
wheat crop in "key export states", AWB said that "the domestic supply-and-demand
balance sheet suggests the market will remain well supported as we enter a
period of strong exports to consumers of Australian grain that need cover over
the next six months".
disappointing harvest in Argentina, the second-ranked wheat exporter in the
southern hemisphere, "will create additional demand for Australian wheat in the
first half of 2013", AWB spokesman Richard Williams said.
Australian wheat remains strong at the current prices into Asia, the Middle
East and East Africa."