The grain harvest
THERE is an emerging feeling that the size of the 2012-13 Australian wheat crop has been overestimated, with ongoing concerns surrounding the dryness in Western Australia.
The most recent figure from the official government forecaster ABARES was 24.1 million tonnes, but that came out in June and is regarded as out of date.
Recent estimates from other forecasters, such as the Commonwealth Bank, have come in at around the same figure, however others are cutting their forecasts back slowly.
Graydon Chong, senior grain and oilseed analyst with Rabobank said his organisation was flagging a crop below 24mt.
“We’re probably closer to 23mt, and this figure could get lower.
“At present, the major issue is in Western Australia, where we have the crop estimated at 7.5mt.”
However, analysts based in Western Australia believe even this reduced forecast may be too high.
Alan Meldrum, who assists the Grains Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) compile monthly crop production estimates said the combination of the late start and well below average rainfall meant the WA crop was losing yield daily.
“There’s been some rain in the past fortnight, but its been patchy. Unless we can get a good rain through the northern and central wheatbelt in the next week, it’s going to be very difficult to recover.”
He pointed out key production areas in the north such as Dalwallinu and Morawa which are currently in decile one seasons, the driest 10pc.
Mr Meldrum said the last GIWA figures in August had a wheat crop of 7.34mt for WA, but he estimated at least 600,000 tonnes would come off in the next report, due early next week.
He said the state was in far better shape than during the 2010 WA drought, largely on the back of reasonable conditions in the Great Southern and South Coast cropping zones, but said parts of the northern and central wheatbelt were in very bad condition.
“Some may be thrown off by the fact the crop has produced a bit of biomass, so it doesn’t yet look too bad, but in terms of rainfall deficits we are way behind, and although the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecasts for spring are good, we really need rain now in the north.”
“I think over the long-term 6.5mt will be on the high side, production can’t go up, it can only go backwards, and once we start seeing some warmer weather crops with little moisture underneath them could go backwards quickly.”
Elsewhere, Mr Chong said there were concerns creeping in regarding production on the Eyre Peninsula in SA, the Mallee parts of SA, Victoria and NSW and parts of the Riverina in NSW.
“Especially in light of the BOM outlook, which is for drier conditions in SA, we have a few concerns there.”
He said crops in northern NSW and Queensland, with good subsoil underneath, remained well positioned, in spite of a recent dry spell.