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Cotton joins Australian crops downgraded because of dryness

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Cotton joined the list of Australian crops suffer production downgrades thanks to heat and dryness as Namoi Cotton lowered its forecast for the harvest to well below official estimates.

Namoi Cotton, in which Louis Dreyfus is a top shareholder, pegged at 3.0m bales the 2016-17 Australian cotton crop, harvesting of which is approaching completion.

The estimate took the crop 100,000 bales below Namoi's previous forecast, made three weeks ago, and further beneath estimates from other commentators, with both Australia's Abares commodity bureau and the US Department of Agriculture putting it at 4.4m bales.

Industry group Cotlook two weeks ago put the harvest at 975,000 tonnes (4.48m bales).

'Exceptionally hot and dry'

Namoi said its estimate, which followed the ginning of some 50-60% of the harvest, reflected the setback to crops from hot and dry weather, albeit conditions earlier in 2017 than the more recent heat blamed for threatening establishment of winter grains and canola.

"Production yields have continued to suffer primarily due to the exceptionally hot and dry conditions that most cotton-growing areas were exposed to over the January and February period," the group said.

Heat and dry conditions have continued to prompt downgrades to Australian winter grain prospects for the 2017-18 harvest, undertaken later in the calendar year,

Tobin Gorey at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said on Wednedsay that while "a smattering of rain will fall in some winter crop regions… Sod's Law in action, the regions that need it most are likely to see little rain".

Australian sugar production expectations, meanwhile, have been curtailed by damage caused by Cyclone Debbie in March.

Rising share

Namoi added that it was now expecting to gin 1.05m-1.1m bales of this year's harvest, including crop handled by joint ventures, a small downgrade on the 1.05m-1.15m bales it forecast last month.

However, that would equate to a market share of 27-28%, ahead of its average share of 25.6% over the past five years, with Olam second on 22.2%, and Auscott third at 17.3%.

The estimate for lint marketing volumes was trimmed to 600,000-650,000 bales, from 600,000-700,000 bales, although the group said its cotton seed business now looked set to trade more than 290,000 tonnes, an upgrade from a previous forecast of 260,000 tonnes.

By Mike Verdin

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