January 2, 2004
Australia Forecast Record Wheat Crop in 2003/04
Bumper Wheat Crop Expected
Australia's 2003/04 wheat harvest is projected at a near-record 23.5 million metric tons (MMT). The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE), in their December 2, 2003 Crop Report, forecast the 2003/04 wheat crop at 23.9 MMT. According to ABARE, record or near-record wheat crops are projected for Western Australia and Victoria. Harvests in New South Wales and Queensland are expected to be below average due to poor growing season weather. Australia's record wheat harvest was 24.85 MMT in 2001/02.
A record wheat crop is expected to be harvested in Western Australia. ABARE, in their December 2003 Crop Report, projected wheat production in the state at a record-setting 9.83 MMT, on the basis of record area and yield. The previous record wheat crop in Western Australia was 9.0 MMT harvested during the 1999/2000 season. Cooperative Bulk Handling, which procures most of Western Australia's grain crop, is also expecting a record 'grain' (which includes wheat, barley, canola, and pulses) crop in the state, with receivals of as much as 15 MMT. CBH reports that total 'grain' delivered into their facilities reached 10.6 MMT on December 15, 2003. CBH's previous record 'grain' procurement was 12.2 MMT in 1999/2000.
The 2002/03 wheat production estimate has been increased according to Australian Government sources. In ABARE's December Crop Report, the 2002/03 wheat crop is estimated at 10.1 MMT, up from the previous 9.385 MMT. The upward adjustment is attributed to recently released data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Increased Wheat Supplies Available for Export; New China Business
The bumper 2003/04 wheat crop will provide substantially increased quantities of wheat for export. Australia's monopoly wheat exporter, AWB, reports that a one million metric ton milling wheat contract was signed with the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import and Export Corporation (COFCO), the sole buying agent for China. The first shipment of wheat is planned for December 2003. AWB reports that this is the first significant sale made by AWB to China since 1996. Australia used to supply between one and two million tons to wheat to China annually.
Bumper Barley Crop also Expected
Australia's 2003/04 barley crop is projected at 7.75 MMT, up sharply from last season's drought-reduced harvest. Record or near record barley crops are expected in the major producing states of South Australia and Western Australia. In ABARE's December 2003 Crop Report the 2003/04 barley crop is projected at 7.74 MMT, up from 3.77 MMT harvested in 2002/03.