A SOAKING start to August in all grain producing states but Queensland has boosted hopes of Australia reaching average winter crop production.
In the same week as the National Australia Bank cut its wheat production forecast 2.5pc, or 600,000 tonnes to 22.7mt based on rainfall to date, falls of up to 80mm were recorded in coastal parts of southern Western Australia.
Possibly the most important falls were recorded in western NSW, where Grain Growers joint chief executive David McKeon said many farmers had recorded up to 40mm.
“It had been getting very dry in parts there so this rain is a real boost.”
In Victoria, Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) vice president Brett Hosking, who farms in the southern Mallee, said conditions were currently close to ideal.
“We had 27mm at Quambatook last week, and it is looking a picture.
“There are some small concerns with some later-sown crops after the dry June, but generally, if we get an average finish to the season we’d be hopeful of getting an above average crop,” Mr Hosking said.
In Western Australia, Miling producer Tony White, in the northern cropping zone, said the latest band of rain had him hoping to push towards an average season.
“The biggest problem was that everything was so late germinating.
“Where we managed to get crop up earlier it looks quite good, but the later stuff will need a kind August and September to get close to average.”
NAB analyst Phin Ziebell said the rain, especially through northern WA, western South Australia and central NSW, would boost prospects.
“Concerns about the state of the winter crop are growing in many parts of the country, with parts of Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales the worst affected,” he said.
“However, rain over the last week has boosted sentiment somewhat.”
He said NAB’s estimates were based on average rainfall for the rest of the year.
“If rainfall continues to be below average a much smaller crop, potentially in the very low twenties or high teens is well within the realms of possibility,” Mr Ziebell said.
However, concerns about long-term weather have been allayed somewhat, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reporting that both an El Niño or an Indian Ocean Dipole positive event are becoming less likely this spring.
Both events are consistent with lower than average Australian rainfall.
Mr White said conditions were less favourable in the far north-eastern wheatbelt in WA.
“I think guys there are really struggling, whereas we still have a chance, there was good subsoil moisture put down with summer rainfall.”
Fellow Western Australian grower John Snooke, Meckering, east of Perth, said the nearby Eastern Highway was a handy reference in terms of crop condition.
“Those to the north are by and large struggling and to the south there are some good crops,” he said.
“Where we are it is OK, there has been a significant turnaround since the start of July.
“At the end of June we thought we may get virtually nothing, now while it still looks like being below average it appears there will be some crop to harvest.”
In South Australia, Grain Producers South Australia board member Adrian McCabe, Hamley Bridge, in the State’s Mid North, said conditions varied markedly over the space of a short distance.
“In my area it can vary from really good to pretty average all in the space of six kilometres or so, just depending on who has had the rain,” he said.
“Up around Tarlee there was good autumn and early winter rain, whereas closer to the coast it was markedly drier and that is reflected in crop condition.”
“It is very patchy.”
He said there had been good rain on the Eyre Peninsula but he said in talking to fellow GPSA members it was unlikely to compensate for the ultra-late start.
“Crops in some places weren’t sown until July and they often start harvest in October there so there just isn’t the time in a lot of cases to get a lot of grain grown.”
He said most crops to the east of Adelaide were in good condition.
Mr McKeon said in spite of the rain much of NSW remained behind the eightball.
“In western and northern areas you would need everything to go right to get average yields.”
“Some of the heavier country to the north of Parkes is not too bad, but you only have to head west and it gets dry quite quickly.”
Queensland largely missed out on the rain, with 5.6mm recorded at St George and 8mm at Texas.