Frost cuts Western Australia wheat, grain production by 15 pct -largest exporter


Frost damage across Australia's largest wheat-producing state has destroyed more than 15 percent of the total grain crop, Cooperative Bulk Handling Ltd (CBH) said on Tuesday.

CBH, the country's largest grain exporter, said total grain output from Western Australia state during the 2016/17 season will be between 13 million and 14 million tonnes, down from a previous estimate of between 15 million and 17 million tonnes.

Wheat accounts for 60 percent of grains production in Western Australia, meaning a production estimate of between 7.8 million and 8.4 million tonnes with the new forecast.

That comes in below the most recent estimate from Australia's chief commodity forecaster of 10.5 million tonnes for Western Australia state as it forecast national wheat production at 28.1 million tonnes, which would be the second-highest on record.

Lower output from the key wheat-producing region in the world's fourth-largest exporter may help lift global prices , which in August hit a 10-year low.

Analysts, however, said Australian wheat output remains uncertain. Heavy rains across the eastern states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland may limit quality, though production will still likely exceed official estimates.

Recent dry weather across the east coast has eased some of the quality concerns, and many growers are expected to harvest as soon as possible, despite the potential to improve the crop by leaving it in the ground for longer.

"People are calling in contractors and doing all they can to be ready to harvest as quickly as possible," said Dan Cooper, a farmer in Caragabal, 460 kilometres west of Sydney. "In the back of peoples minds is the 2010/11 harvest, which was very wet. We will be harvesting as soon as it is ready," he said.

In 2010/11, heavy rains in December saw much of the east coast crop downgraded to animal feed - reducing Australia's exportable surplus.

Early harvesting may reduce the quality potential of the crop, although it would reduce some production uncertainty.

The most recent weather outlook from Australia's Bureau of Meteorology calls for a 40 percent chance of above average rainfall in November and December.


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