WA pick-up raises Australian wheat export hopes

Australian wheat exports will rise this season after all, thanks to a record pace of shipments from Western Australia, helped by a strong harvest and infrastructure improvements.

Australia & New Zealand Bank raised by 400,000 tonnes to 19.0m tonnes its forecast for Australia's wheat exports in 2013-14, on an October-to-September basis, the local marketing year.

The upgrade, which lifted hopes for this season above the shipments of 18.64m tonnes that the country achieved in 2012-13, reflected an acceleration in shipments from Western Australia, the country's top grain-growing state to a record 1.17m tonnes in March.

"This strong export performance should continue," ANZ analyst Paul Deane said, forecasting that Western Australian shipments will hit an all-time high of 9.3m tonnes for the full season, nearly half the figure for the whole country.

'Record available crop'

The Western Australian export performance "co-incides with a record available crop", and Aus$175m investment in rail stock by CBH, the co-operative which handles the great majority of the state's grains, Mr Deane said.

Western Australia wheat production rebounded 58% last year to 10.5m tonnes, according to Abares, the country's official commodities bureau.

And farmers have been encouraged to sell by higher prices, with futures in Western Australia wheat up 16% over the past three months.

The state's wheat exports over the last half of the season will, at 5.2m tonnes, exceed those of the first half's 4.1m tonnes.

East vs west

However, shipments from eastern Australia will suffer a "sharp decline" in the April-to-September period, with a relatively soft harvest, and higher local demand, constraining volumes.

"We estimate that the east coast had little more than 5m tonnes of wheat available to export at the start of the season," Mr Deane said.

"With 3.3m tonnes already shipped in the first half, wheat exports are likely to be quickly exhausted in the second half."

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