December 18, 2003



Australia AusBulk Revises Winter Grains Harvest Estimates


AusBulk Ltd, a grain storage and handling company based in South Australia, revised its intake estimate for winter grain crops, on the back of a dry finish to the growing season.


Anita Poddar, an AusBulk spokeswoman, said the company now expects to receive a maximum 6.85 million metric tons of winter grains, down from its estimate two weeks ago of just over 7.0 million tons.


Further downgrades are possible, as the harvest comes to a close probably in early to mid-January.


Grain quality could also suffer from expected poor harvest weather in the next 10 days.


Most of the state's grain is exported.


"The crops grew really well, we had decent rain and then it just dried off," Poddar told Dow Jones Newswires.


A heavy statewide downpour of rain in early October probably stopped crops being written off all together, she said. Little useful rain fell after this, she said.


As a result, late maturing districts and crops didn't finish well, she said.


"The wheat crops look brilliant, but when you put the headers in, they're just not there," she said, relaying grower comments.


Poddar estimates about 55% of total intake will be wheat, down from the usual 60%.


Thus far, AusBulk has received 5.2 million tons of grain, of which 2.1 million tons is barley and 2.4 million tons is wheat, she said.


Wheat quality has suffered from the dry finish to the season, with a higher than usual proportion of small size grains, she said.


AusBulk's forecast is well down from a production estimate of 7.68 million tons issued in early December by the state's department of Primary Industries and Resources.


Poddar warned the figures aren't directly comparable, with AusBulk's forecast excluding grain stored onfarm, direct sales to users from farms and deliveries to other logistics operations, such as AWB Ltd. (AWB.AU).


If AusBulk's latest forecast is realized, its intake still will be the third highest on record, after 8.6 million tons of deliveries in 2001-02 and 7.2 million tons in 2000-01.


A drought slashed state grain output by half last year.

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