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Crops off to ‘flying start’ – Australian crop update

Timely rainfall and the increased likelihood of a La Niña weather pattern, have farmers across much of the country buoyed by the prospect of a bumper crop.

In the Australian Crop Update, agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank said the
autumn break had seen the Australian 2016/17 winter crop planted into a good soilmoisture profile, raising expectations of a 26.7 million tonne wheat crop– up 10 percent.

Rabobank grains and oilseeds analyst Ben Larkin said while the start to the season was “perfectly timed” across much of Australia’s cropping belt, there were parts of northern New South Wales and Queensland that remained dry.

“While there has been some rain in this part of the country, it fell too late for many producers to fulfil their winter planting intentions, with some opting to leave their land fallow for summer crops,” he said.

“In contrast, conditions in Western Australia couldn’t be better, with the majority of the state’s cropping regions recording between 100 and 300 millimetres of rain between January 2016 and May 2016.”

Mr Larkin said most of southern New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia had also had the rain to facilitate a full planting program.

“That said, we are not expecting to see an increase in the area planted to wheat,” he said, “with the increase in national production likely to be driven by yields, which are forecast to average around 2.09 tonnes to the hectare.”

Mr Larkin said ‘price signals’ were a key driver of crop rotations, with barley acreage expected to be down by three per cent, while canola was expected to be up by a similar percentage.

“Western Australia has reported the biggest swing to canola, with planted area in the west expected to be up five per cent.

However, despite favourable conditions in Victoria, many farmers have erred on the side of caution after 2015’s dry spring slashed canola yields,” he said.

Mr Larkin said despite the decline in the area planted to barley, the national crop was
expected to be up by four per cent on 2015 at 8.79 million tonnes, while canola was
expected to surge up to 3.28 million tonnes – an 11 per cent increase.

“We are also seeing a swing towards chickpeas and lentils, with high prices spurring an increase in planting,” he said.

Mr Larkin warned that while current conditions, and the expectation of a wetter-than average season, underpinned forecasts of an above-average crop, much would depend on follow-up rainfall.

“We are still four to five months out from harvest, so while the season is shaping up well, there is still a long way to go,” he said.

In the northern hemisphere, Mr Larkin said prospects of a good harvest were overhanging the global grains market, which remained “awash with wheat”.

“With there being little upside to wheat and barley prices, unless there is a significant weather-related event, Australian farmers will be relying on good yields to underpin profit margins,” he said.

“As we move through winter and spring, farmers will be looking to the skies and hoping weather forecasts eventuate, as the potential is certainly sitting in the ground.”

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