THE NATIONAL grain production forecaster ABARES has confirmed winter crop production in Australia was the lowest since 2007-08.
In spite of the second biggest production year on record in Western Australia, with total yields of 17.7m tonnes, it was not enough to stop the total Australian winter crop, 30.4m tonnes, from being the lowest since 2007-08's 25.4m tonnes.
It is the first time in recent record that Western Australia has contributed over half of the national winter crop.
ABARES also slashed summer cropping production estimates, lowering total sorghum production to just 1.3 million tonnes following a record breaking dry spell in key sorghum growing regions.
Combined with the low stocks as a result of the poor winter crop, the drop in sorghum availability means feed grain will remain in short supply on the east coast, even allowing for imports from the west.
ABARES acting executive director Peter Gooday said, in spite of the strong pricing signal encouraging growers to plant summer crop, the dry conditions and lack of irrigation water meant a 23 per cent year on year drop in total summer crop plantings to a million hectares.
The major falls were in the two big irrigated crops, cotton and rice.
Sorghum production is only expected to be down 9pc year on year, to 1.3m tonnes, but that is from a low baseline.
After good rain in December, many analysts had estimates as high as 2m tonnes, but this figure has been eroded substantially by the dry start to 2019 in many parts of the sorghum belt.
Mr Gooday said there was not as much ground planted to sorghum as was first anticipated.
"Late season planting was minimal because of low soil moisture levels and unfavourable seasonal conditions in Queensland,” he said.
ABARES made a substantial upgrade to total production in Western Australia, up 9pc since the December report, with total tonnage tallying 17.7 million tonnes or 58pc of the entire national winter crop.
Production of all major winter crops is estimated to have fallen, wheat by 19pc to 17.3m tonnes, barley by 7pc to 8.3m tonnes and canola by 41pc to 2.2m tonnes.