A seed shortage, besides a lack of rain, has undermined
prospects for Australia's canola crop, the Australian Oilseeds Federation said,
as it lowered the bar on expectations for the harvest in the key exporting
The industry group pegged at 3.12m tonnes Australia's 2017-18
canola harvest – a drop of 26% year on year on its data.
The estimate was also below forecasts from other
commentators, with Abares, the official Australian crop bureau, putting the
harvest at 3.32m tonnes, and the US Department of Agriculture, which will on
Wednesday update its world crop supply estimates, pegging it at 3.70m tonnes.
The International Grains Council two weeks ago cut its
forecast by 400,000 tonnes to 3.3m tonnes, seeing "yields seen retreating
sharply from the previous year's unprecedented levels" output thanks to dry
weather, notably in Western Australia, the top canola-producing state.
Australia is the world's second-ranked exporter of
canola/rapeseed, behind Canada, with market share of some 20%.
Even with a 3.3m-tonne estimate for the Australian harvest, the International Grains Council sees a small world canola production deficit in 2017-18, forecasting a 200,000-tonne drop to a multi-year low of 3.8m tonnes in global inventories over the season.
'No significant rain
The Australian Oilseeds Federation underlined the setback to
canola prospects from dry weather, despite some boost to grower sentiment from "recent
rains… after one of the driest June months on record in many canola growing
"We are reluctant to lift forecast yields at this time, as
the rain that has fallen has been patchy and light, being generally less that
15mm in most areas."
Looking ahead, "no significant rain events are forecast for
the next few weeks", and already the dryness has cut area prospects.
"Reported area sown in Western Australia, and South Australia
has been reduced from earlier estimates as dry-sown canola in some areas failed
to germinate and has been resown to cereals or left fallow."
And as a further setback to harvest prospects, there is a
question mark over the quality of the seed used too, with the federation
reporting "commercial planting seed shortages"
While this has not prevented farmers sowing 2.3m "viable"
hectares of canola, a figure in line with the five-year average, growers had
relied to an unusually large extent on seed held over from the previous
"The higher-than-average use of farmer saved seed, at the
expense of hybrids, has caused us to temper yield estimates from the start,
before accounting for any moisture related stress that may eventuate," the
"Weighted average yield is currently 1.33 tonnes per hectare
versus the five-year average, excluding last year, of 1.53 tonnes per hectare."
Western Australia vs Victoria
The federation added that its production figure included a forecast
for the Western Australian yield of "slightly under 1.2 tonnes per hectare,
well short of recent yields and more in line with those experienced last decade",
reflecting dry conditions.
The Western Australia harvest was seen suffering a
particularly steep decline, of 41% to just under 1.30m tonnes.
By contrast, in Victoria, which had enjoyed "very positive
growing conditions", an above-average yield forecast was being used.
"Soil moisture levels remain good in many areas, including
the Wimmera and Mallee, but will be in need of replenishment soon."