Record crop in spite of downgrades

Gregor Heard
By Gregor Heard
Updated December 3 2021 - 4:02am, first published 4:00am
Receival sites across the country are flat out as farmers take off what is expected to be a record winter crop.

WHILE the focus has been on the heavy quality damage caused by record rainfall there is some good news for the nation's croppers in terms of overall grain production.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences lifted its forecast winter crop production in its December crop report to a record 58.4 million tonnes, beating the previous record of 56.7 million tonnes, set in 2016-17.

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The forecaster lifted its crop estimates 5 per cent in its latest release on the back of a favourable spring which has led to what is expected to be all time record production WA and the second highest on record in NSW.

ABARES executive director Jared Greenville said along with the conditions in Australia's major two grain growing states there will also be good returns in Queensland, SA and Victoria.

Of the separate commodities Dr Greenville said there would be records set in wheat, 34.4 million tonnes, and canola 5.7m tonnes, while barley, 13.3m tonnes, is set for its second biggest year.

The upgrade in estimates brings ABARES in line with some of the more bullish private forecasters, such as IKON Commodities, which has a whopping number of 37.3m tonnes for wheat, 6.2m tonnes for canola and virtually the same, 13.35m tonnes, for barley.

The IKON team remained confident its bullish estimates would be fulfilled.

"All combined, the harvest progress across all states suggests that the crop size will only get larger as crops in higher production zones are harvested in the coming weeks," an IKON spokesperson said.

Dr Greennville said there would be a combination of quality and yield losses through flood-impacted parts of NSW, but added on the macro scale the yield losses were not likely to be significant.

He also pointed to potential silver linings in terms of subsoil moisture limiting mouse activity.

"There's good news when it comes to mice, with increased baiting on farms during winter and spring reducing populations in affected regions, and there have been no reports of significant damage," Dr Greenville said.

On the summer cropping front he is expecting a big jump in plantings.

"The area planted to summer crops in 2021-22 is forecast to increase by 36 per cent to reach 1.4 million hectares, due to favourable soil moisture levels in late spring and high water storage levels," he said.

"The area planted to cotton is expected to increase the most, driven by better returns to cotton compared to other summer crops."

While spring was not especially wet in SA and WA Dr Greenville said that yield potential was boosted in those two states by timely rainfall and a cool finish, which helped offset a dry September and spring frosts.

Elsewhere, Victoria is looking reasonable as harvest hits full swing however there are reports that frost damage may be more significant than first thought.

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Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

National Grains Industry Reporter

Gregor Heard is Fairfax Ag Media's national grains industry reporter, based in Horsham, Victoria. He has a wealth of knowledge surrounding the cropping sector through his ten years in the role. Prior to that he was with the Fairfax network as a reporter with Stock & Land. Some of the major issues he has reported on during his time with the company include the deregulation of the export wheat market, the introduction of genetically modified crops and the fight to protect growers better from grain trader insolvencies. Still involved with the family farm he is passionate about rural Australia and its people and hopes to use his role to act as an advocate for those involved in the grain sector. Away from work, he is a keen traveller, having spent his long service leave last year in Spain learning the language.

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