September 18, 2003



Australia's Wheat Crop Forecast Near 24 Million Tons 

Production from the new Australian wheat crop is likely to reach almost each 24 million metric tons, Peter McBride, a spokesman for wheat exporter AWB Ltd., said Thursday.


In response to this strong production recovery, AWB will operate aggressively in world wheat markets in the coming months to sell the cereal before potentially large North American crops are harvested from mid-2004, he said.


AWB's current official output forecast of 22 million to 24 million tons is expected to go in the higher part of the range, the spokesman said. "All the indications at this stage point to 23 and 24" million tons, which is a very healthy crop, he added. Other forecasters have produced similar estimations.


Actual output last crop year ended March 31, 2003, was a mere 9.4 million tons, owing to droughts. Australia is a major wheat exporter through AWB, which holds a monopoly over bulk wheat exports.


Good weather and growing conditions across south Australia have contributed to the favourable upgrade, said McBride. "The vast majority of New South Wales and the rest of the country, bar parts of Queensland, is looking very good," he said.


AWB's forecast is based on average spring weather conditions, ahead of harvest, mostly in November and December. Wheat that is grown by producers are collectively exported by AWB, bringing in returns for the sales year. It aims to maximise growers' returns. The period to the next U.S. wheat harvest provides "an ideal opportunity" to market the crop, McBride said.


"We won't be sitting on our hands basically, we'l be aggressive in the market place and we'll try and get as much done" as possible, he said.


AWB already has priced about 2 million tons, which he described as a good result at this stage of the year. But the second half of calendar 2004 will likely see increased competition in global markets from the new U.S. crop.
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