2019 winter crop a mixed bag

2019 winter crop a mixed bag

Prospects for winter crop production are best in southern states this year.

Prospects for winter crop production are best in southern states this year.


There is a big gap between the haves and have nots in terms of winter crop potential this year.


NATIONAL winter crop prospects are currently neatly divided between the haves and the have-nots.

In Western Australia, much of South Australia, Victoria and the Riverina in NSW, prospects are generally good apart from some dry pockets, such as the SA Mallee and Riverland.

Further north, however, and blue-ribbon grain growing regions such as NSW's Central West and Liverpool Plains and Queensland's Darling Downs are virtual disasters.

Overall, the situation is a year on year improvement for most farmers, reflected in forecasts predicting up to four million tonnes of extra wheat production, however by the same token the production figures are still down on long term averages.

Phin Ziebell, NAB agribusiness economist, said his organisation pegged total wheat production at 20.4 million tonnes, up from 17.1m tonnes last year but slightly below other estimates, such as the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) which has an estimate of 21.2m tonnes.

He said the solid break through WA, Victoria and SA had spurred strong plantings but said northern NSW and Queensland were below average, although there is a bright spot in the form of a good season brewing in Central Queensland, Australia's most northerly cereal producing region.

In terms of total production, Mr Ziebell said he was worried about the spring ahead, which is why the figures are lower than other estimates.

"Our concern at this stage is that the Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a drier than average winter and start to spring, which would keep production low in the already dry eastern regions," Mr Ziebell said.

Trent Robinson, site manager at Robinson Grain Dubbo, said his organisation was busy sourcing old crop grain for end users and added local grain shortages were likely to be the case from the Central West north.

"Places like Nyngan and Nevertire are really bad, some of the Nyngan farmers are saying it as bad as they've ever seen it, we're talking about farmers who normally put in thousands of hectares and they are not planting anything this year.

Mr Robinson said the majority of the Central West, apart from a narrow strip between Coonamble and Gilgandra, was desperately dry.

"There will be a lot of people not planting, last year's lessons where people planted on not much moisture and were burnt are strong in the memory so some people are a bit more averse to risk.

"Others are planting some barley, but purely to minimise the risk of soil erosion."

Mr Robinson said there was not much hope of a turnaround in the seasonal prospects.

"It's getting very late now and even if you did get a planting rain it can get warm from August onwards, so that is a consideration."

However, he said the industry was hopeful grain did not have to move quite so far this year.

"There was some grain in the Riverina last year, but this year we're hoping there will be quite a bit more, one farmer I spoke to from around Wagga Wagga said it was the best start to winter he's seen in a long time farming, so the yield potential is there."

The different in yield potential drops dramatically in a relatively short distance from the northern Riverina, which has picked up rain coming in from the south-west, to the south-west slopes, which has missed out.

At present, Mr Robinson said his company was moving grain north from places such as eastern South Australia and Victoria's Wimmera region.

"Once the new crop comes online the focus will shift to the Riverina and that will obviously mean much lower freight costs."

Brett Hosking, Grain Growers chairman, said there was a wide range of feedback from his group's members.

"Once again the northern guys look like missing out which is terrible for them, but further to the south there is some cautious optimism.

"It is only early and not everybody has stored moisture but certainly things look pretty good through large parts of Victoria, SA and southern NSW.

"The cropping systems in these areas tend to rely on in-crop rainfall rather than stored moisture so the spring is going to be critical, but at this stage people are relatively happy and the good part is that there are a lot of areas that really struggled last year that are looking much better this time around."

Mr Robinson and Mr Hosking both said that while they expected grain supplies to be relatively readily available for those willing to pay high freight costs to move the grain, fodder may be another matter.

"There does not seem to be a lot of fodder about so that is something the industry will continue to monitor closely," Mr Robinson said.

Mr Hosking said there were dedicated hay crops planted and said other crops may be cut if the season looks tight leading into spring, but said there was virtually no carryover.

"There really is very little uncommitted hay anywhere from what I'm hearing."


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