Australian wheat sowings lose ground, as farmers turn to barley, canola


Australia’s sowings of wheat will ease further next season, losing ground to coarse grains such as barley and oats, and to canola, seedings of which will soar to a six-year high.

Abares, the official Australian commodities bureau, in initial forecasts for domestic crop plantings in 2018-19 pegged them at a three-year low of 12.18m hectares, representing a decline of 61,000 hectares year on year.

The bureau said the decline would come “in response to lower world prices”, although it stressed the importance of planting weather in determining final crops areas.

The bureau also signalled weaker expectation for sowings of pulses, notably chickpeas, although stopped short of giving a full forecast.

Barley and oat increases

By contrast for coarse grains, Abares forecast growth in sowings of 329,000 hectares to a four-year high of 5.58m hectares.

“Area planted to barley and oats is expected to increase as the price of these crops rises from low levels, increasing their profitability relative to pulse crops,” the bureau said, noting too agronomic reasons for switching to the grains.

“Rotational constraints are also likely to encourage planting of cereal crops after consecutive years of high pulse plantings.”

Furthermore, growers will see an incentive to favour barley thanks to prices seeing finding “support” from “increased demand for livestock feed and historically low global stocks”.

‘Profitable cropping option’

Also among coarse grains, sowings of sorghum, one of Australia’s main summer crops, were seeing jumping by 448,000 hectares to 618,000 hectares, again spurred by high prices, which were forecast rising back above Aus$300 a tonne next season for the first time in four years.

The area increase “follows two consecutive years of below-average plantings due to the greater profitability of cotton and low soil moisture at planting,” Abares said.

“Continued demand for ethanol production and livestock feed combined with low supply are expected to make grain sorghum production a profitable summer cropping option.”

‘Economic incentives’

Winter-seeded canola was also see proving especially popular in 2018-19, with plantings forecast growing by 121,000 hectares to a six-year high of 2.95m hectares.

“This will be driven by low grain and falling pulse prices providing economic incentives to increase canola production,” Abares said.

Australia’s canola crop was forecast at 4.01m tonnes, the third-largest on record, sufficient to allow exports of 3.12m tonnes, also beaten only twice.

Wheat exports

Wheat output was seen up nearly 2.50m tonnes at 23.74m tonnes, recovering from the latest, drought-affected harvest, while barley production was seen rising marginally, to 9.00m tonnes.

Australian wheat exports in 2018-19 were forecast at a three-year low, falling by some 540,000 tonnes year on year.

Abares flagged a boost to 2017-18 exports from large carry-ins stocks left over from the record harvest the previous season.

Australia’s chickpea production in 2018-19 was seen tumbling by 26% to a four-year low of 761,000 hectares, despite a forecast of yield sticking at 0.9 tonnes per hectare.


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