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'Urgent' rains needed to prevent Western Australia crop 'crash'


Crops in Australia’s top grain-growing state need rain “urgently” to prevent them “crashing”, an industry group said, cutting output forecasts, contrasting with an official briefing which had raised hopes for the country’s harvest.


“The bulk of the grain belt” in Western Australia “has run out of, or will soon run out of, stored moisture,” the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (Giwa) said.


The association - which last month reported early August rains as a “game changer” for the state’s winter crops - said that spare follow-up rainfall had left crops on heavier soils “showing signs of moisture stress”, with other areas having a “week or two before grain yield potential falls away” unless rains are forthcoming.


‘Crashing’ threat

Indeed, the “next two weeks will largely determine the final outcome for the year”, the association said.


“With the weather warming up and crops at peak water use, more rain is urgently needed to avoid crops crashing and not achieving current grain yield potential.”


In fact, weather service Maxar forecast that “dryness and stress will continue to build” in areas including northern growing areas of Western Australia “through the weekend”, with the six-to-10 day outlook dry for all of the west of the country.


Giwa vs Abares

Giwa’s comments came as it cut its forecast for Western Australian crop output in 2020 by 390,000 tonnes to 14.51m tonnes.


The forecast for the wheat harvest was cut by 440,000 tonnes to 8.45m tonnes, with downgrades also to barley and oat crops, offset in part by increased expectations for the state’s production of canola, lupins and pulses.


“If no significant rain falls in the next two weeks, the decrease in tonnage could exceed 10% from current estimates.”


The wheat downgrade took it below too the 8.90m-tonne harvest pencilled in earlier this week by Abares, the official Australian commodities bureau, as it upgraded its forecast for the country’s total harvest of the grain to 28.91m tonnes, above many private estimates.


Abares, while saying that Western Australia’s “cereal crops are expected to achieve average to above average yields”, also highlighted that “sufficient and timely spring rainfall will be critical to grain development.


“There is downside risk in the spring rainfall outlook for yield prospects, especially if early spring rainfall is insufficient to sustain crops in regions where root zone soil moisture levels in August were well below average to extremely low.”


Data later

The comments come ahead of a US Department of Agriculture Wasde briefing which is expected to follow Abares in upgrading its forecast for the Australian wheat harvest, which starts next month.


Market expectations are of a 2.0m tonnes to 28.0m tonnes, according to broker RJ O’Brien.

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