THE prospect of a record-breaking season in Western Australia means Australian crop forecasters are now scaling back the extent of the year-on-year drop in grain production in spite of the ongoing dry in NSW and Queensland.
Earlier in the year it was a race to the bottom with several reputable forecasters predicting the national wheat crop would struggle to reach 12.5 million tonnes, or only half the five year average.
However, in its July crop production forecast INTL FCStone has come up with a figure of 18.77 million tonnes, which is more than a million tonnes down on its June figure but not the wholesale cut feared at one stage of the growing season.
Senior commodity analyst with the business Nick Carracher said further rain since the forecast came out meant production was unlikely to drop significantly.
“I think we are now getting close to a stage where you can start locking in some yield in Western Australia and in parts of South Australia and Victoria,” Mr Carracher said.
“There is going to be very little production in NSW and Queensland but we’ve been factoring that in for a while now.”
He said Western Australia had the best seasonal conditions at present, as has been referenced by other crop forecasters such as the Grains Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA), which is forecasting a WA wheat crop of 9.9m tonnes, fuelled by excellent conditions in areas such as the Geraldton port zone.
The INTL FCStone number for WA is more conservative at 7.9mt, although Mr Carracher said there was scope for upside should the kind season continue.
Mr Carracher said portions of South Australia and Victoria were well placed but said further rain was necessary to cement yield.
In NSW, the best prospects are in the south of the state, but there is further downside risk if conditions stay dry, while Queensland will have very little wheat production no matter what happens.
Forecast rain at the end of this week through northern and central NSW and southern Queensland is likely to be of more use for the summer cropping cycle than the winter crop.
The INTL FCStone figure is still below that of ABARES, which had a wheat number of 21.9m tonnes but the ABARES figure is likely to be cut significantly in its next update.
The majority of forecasters are beginning to fall in line with a number between 16-20m tonnes.
In terms of other major crops, Mr Carracher said he expected barley production to be at 7.5m tonnes, little changed from the company’s June estimate and canola tonnages to be around 2.65m tonnes, although he said there could be further pressure on that number.