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Just how strong will Australian crop volumes, and quality, be?

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For a crop already being harvested, Australian wheat is attracting a wide range of forecasts.


National Australia Bank on Monday restated a forecast of an 18.7m-tonne crop, well below, for instance, the US Department of Agriculture’s 21.5m-tonne figure.


Much of the discrepancy relates to differing ideas of how significantly, or not, recent rains have repaired damage from dryness for much of the growing season – and how much harm was caused by frost, and which is irreparable.


“While rains in Western Australia, and more recently Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, have been a boost to prospects since September, overall the picture is very patchy,” NAB said.


“It is hard to see October rainfall making a big difference to yields in New South Wales.”


‘Poor colour, staining, frost damage…’


And the uncertainty extends to other crops too.


Rabobank last week took an upbeat view of Australian harvest prospects, saying that “pulses remain a bright spot, with production pegged to be only marginally down on average, largely due to the 11% increase in planted hectares”.


In South Australia, output of pulses, largely led by lentils, is “expected to be up by 23%, saved by early July rain across much of the Yorke Peninsula and south eastern areas”.


However, further north Nidera Australia cautioned of the potential for quality setbacks, saying that “there are certainly chickpea trucks arriving at silos and packing facilities on the [Darling] Downs with one, or a number of, defects that can lead to downgrading.


“Poor colour, staining, frost damage, shrivelled and wrinkled seeds, and mould have all been detected and the market is keeping a close eye on quality as the harvest unfolds.”


‘Prices are looking weak’


NAB, meanwhile, said that “indications are that the Australian lentil crop will be patchy this year”.


And that is not the only worry for producers, with prices coming under pressure from increasing pressure on international markets.


“Lentil prices are looking weak due to good supply from Canada and India,” NAB said.


Indeed, Australian crop merchant AgVantage said that “we have seen prices soften as of late”, depressed by “considerable crop on [Indian] the sub-continent”, the key import market”, although remaining relatively strong in Narrabri in north western New South Wales.


“Patchy”, a word being widely used to describe Australian crop production prospects this year, looks like it may apply to prices as well.

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