Australia wheat crop estimated at 20 million tonnes

by Jay Sjerven
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CANBERRA — The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics on Dec. 9 estimated Australian wheat production in 2008-09 (the harvest was under way) at 19,969,000 tonnes, up 62,000 tonnes from the September forecast but down 3,711,000 tonnes, or 16%, from the June projection of 23,680,000 tonnes.

While smaller than early forecasts because of poor spring conditions in southern New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the 2008-09 wheat crop was estimated to be 6,930,000 tonnes, or 53%, larger than the drought-reduced outturn of 13,039,000 tonnes in 2007-08. The recent five-year Australian wheat crop was 18,828,000 tonnes with the average drawn down by two drought-ravaged crops, last year’s crop of 13 million tonnes and the 2006-07 crop of 10.8 million tonnes.

While Australian growers could not help but be relieved production was vastly improved from the previous two harvests, there were concerns over quality.

"Untimely November rainfall in all states except South Australia has interrupted the harvesting of winter crops and depending on the stage of crop maturity will result in varying degrees of quality downgrading," ABARE said in commentary accompanying the production data. "The timing of the November rainfall has meant a very disappointing end to the 2008 winter cropping season."

Western Australia is the largest wheat-producing state. Wheat production in the state in 2008-09 was estimated at 7,925,000 tonnes, up 83,000 tonnes from the September forecast, up 30% from 6,100,000 tonnes in 2007-08 and compared with 7,592,000 tonnes as the recent five-year average.

The New South Wales wheat crop was estimated at 6,514,000 tonnes, down 73,000 tonnes from September but up 262% from 1,800,000 tonnes a year earlier and compared with 5,588,000 tonnes as the five-year average.

South Australia wheat production was estimated at 2,295,000 tonnes, down 2% from 2007-08. The Queensland crop was estimated at 1,721,000 tonnes, up 89% from a year earlier. Victoria wheat production was estimated at 1,487,000 tonnes, down 20% from 2007-08. Tasmania wheat production was estimated at 28,000 tonnes, down from 33,000 tonnes in 2007-08.

Domestic use of Australian wheat in 2008-09 was forecast at 6,857,000 tonnes, up 325,000 tonnes, or 5%, from 6,532,000 tonnes in 2007-08. The recent five-year average domestic usage was 6,464,000 tonnes. Human and industrial use of wheat was projected at 2,401,000 tonnes, up 2% from 2,354,000 tonnes in 2007-08 and compared with 2,372,000 tonnes as the five-year average. Feed use of wheat was projected at 3,782,000 tonnes, up 8% from 3,500,000 tonnes in 2007-08 and compared with 3,456,000 tonnes as the five-year average. Seed use of wheat was projected at 673,000 tonnes, down 5,000 tonnes from the previous year and compared with 635,000 tonnes as the five-year average.

Australian wheat exports in 2008-09 were projected at 12,335,000 tonnes, up 4,879,000 tonnes, or 65%, from 7,456,000 tonnes in 2007-08 and compared with 12,931,000 tonnes as the recent five-year average.

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