AUSTRALIAN winter crop production is expected to decrease in 2017-18 as a result of unfavourable conditions in many key cropping regions, according to the latest ABARES crop report.
ABARES chief commodity analyst Peter Gooday said winter crop production is forecast to decrease 39 per cent in 2017-18 to 36.3 million tonnes.
“While this is a big fall from 2016-17, the latest forecast is 2pc above the 10-year average to 2015-16,” he said.
“Seasonal conditions were mixed for crops during winter and as a result the condition of crops at the start of spring varied significantly.
“The decrease for winter crop production largely reflects an expected fall in yields from the exceptionally high yields of 2016-17.”
Production decreases are forecast for the three major winter crops with wheat production forecast to decrease by 38pc to 21.6mt, barley production by 40pc to 8mt and canola production by 33pc to 2.8mt.
Chickpea production is forecast to fall by 36pc to 1.2mt and oat production is forecast to fall by 45pc to 1mt.
“These forecasts will only be achieved if spring rainfall is sufficient and timely, especially in central west NSW and the Eyre and Yorke peninsulas,” Mr Gooday said.
“According to the latest three-month rainfall outlook issued by the Bureau of Meteorology, spring rainfall will likely be about average in most cropping regions.”
Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce said the forecast demonstrated the impact variable weather conditions was having on Australia’s cropping regions.
“Australia is a big country with a variable climate and highly fluctuating rainfall, so it is unrealistic to expect that all of our crops will be growing well at all times,” he said.
“This forecasted dip is also coming off the back of Australia’s biggest winter crop on record last season at over 59.3tm, and yields are forecast to remain above the 10-year average to 2015-16.”
Mr Joyce said the gross value of farm production reached $63 billion in 2016-17 and agriculture was the largest contributor to national GDP growth and fastest growing economic sector – up a formidable 23pc across the year.
“Although yields are down, crop prices remain positive,” he said.
“In the ABARES 2017-18 June forecast for world crop prices, wheat prices are forecast to rise by 5pc to $US205/t, barley to rise by 4pc to US$165/t, and cotton to rise slightly to US83c/lb.
“I am confident that despite challenges, the continued hard work of Australia’s farmers will drive a bright future for our cropping and agricultural industries.”