December 4, 2023
Heavy rain threatens Australian wheat crops
Heavy rainstorms sweeping through south-eastern Australia are causing substantial damage to wheat crops, with analysts warning of a potential production loss exceeding 100,000 tonnes, Channel News Asia reported.
Australia, a major global wheat exporter, is currently well into its harvest season. Earlier in the year, scorching heat and low rainfall had already lowered production forecasts from about 40 million tonnes last year to an expected 25 million to 28 million metric tonnes.
As November brings increased rainfall, parts of New South Wales experienced over 200mm of rain in a 24-hour period between Tuesday and Wednesday, with more than 80mm in parts of Victoria, according to Australia's weather bureau. A severe weather warning remains in effect for rain and damaging winds in areas where the harvest is underway.
The heavy rain hampers the operation of large machinery, leaving crops vulnerable to fungus or sprouting if left in the fields. Analysts, including Andrew Whitelaw at Consultants Episode 3, estimate potential losses ranging from 50,000 to 130,000 tonnes of wheat, with half a million tonnes likely downgraded to lower quality due to the rain-damaged crops.
Ole Houe at IKON Commodities expresses concerns of up to 100,000 tonnes disappearing and 1 million tonnes being degraded from milling to feed wheat.
Rod Baker at Australian Crop Forecasters is more optimistic but still anticipates potential losses of up to 50,000 tonnes, with 500,000 tonnes potentially downgraded to feed quality.
All analysts caution that estimates may change, contingent on the weather in the coming days.
While the heavy rain poses challenges for wheat production, it is expected to benefit Australian summer crops such as cotton and sorghum. Vitor Pistoia at Rabobank notes that the rainfall boosts confidence among farmers in northern New South Wales and Queensland, particularly regarding sorghum cultivation, which was uncertain before the recent rains.
- Channel News Asia