Record winter harvest predicted: ABARES

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November rains have failed to dampen expectations of a bumper winter harvest season, with the 2021-22 winter crop expected to hit a new record.

Record high production is expected in Western Australia while New South Wales is also projected to reach its second highest figure

Australia’s 2021-22 winter crop production is anticipated to topple the existing record, with initial predictions reaching a record 58.4 million tonnes at harvest, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

The new predicted national record, outlined in the December edition of ABARES’ Australian Crop Report, is a 6.6 per cent upward revision from its September estimate of 54.8 million tonnes.

Favourable growing conditions over spring, sufficient rainfall and the general condition of crops at the end of winter have driven the improvement in the nation’s crop production prospects. 

Predictions of the increase have been driven by forecasts of record high production in Western Australia (21.2 million tonnes) as well as the second highest on record in New South Wales (17.8m tonnes). 

Across the nation, Tasmania is expected to produce a new record of production (0.13mt) with Queensland (2.9mt) and Victoria (8.4mt) are expected to reach their second and third highest figures respectively. 

The nation’s top crop, wheat, is anticipated to reach record levels of production with 34.4 million tonnes expected – a three per cent increase on the previous record set in 2020-21. 

The same is true of other major crops, with canola expected to register a new record at 5.7 million tonnes – a figure 27 per cent above the record set in 2020-21. 

At an expected 13.3 million tonnes, Australia’s barley yield is forecast to be the second highest on record – a decrease of two per cent from the 2020-21 haul. 

ABARES executive director Dr Jared Greenville says the projected production figures are considerably positive given the number of interruptions farmers and crops have had to ensure this cycle. 

"A series of heavy rainfall events during November has delayed the harvest of winter crops across New South Wales and Queensland likely leading to a fall in grain quality in unharvested crops," Greenville says.      

"Flooding in northern and central parts of New South Wales has also resulted in production losses for some producers, but this is not expected to significantly affect state totals.

"There’s good news when it comes to mice, with increased baiting on farms during winter and spring reducing populations in affected regions, and there have been no reports of significant damage." 

"A La Niña event became established in the tropical Pacific during November, increasing the chance of above average rainfall across much of northern and eastern Australia during summer," Greenville adds.

Despite this, the Crop Report also outlined a favourable outlook for summer crops, where area planted is expected to increase by 36 per cent to around 1.4 million hectares. 

The La Niña summer is forecast to increase the availability of irrigation water for crops such as rise and irrigated cotton, while favourable soil moisture levels will also drive grain sorghum plantings. 

However, ABARES also outlines that the record high November rainfall could impact early sown summer crops which could be damaged. 

Cotton production is forecast to rise by 79 per cent to 2021-22 with hope of a new record 1.1 million tonnes harvested. 

"The area planted to summer crops in 2021–22 is forecast to increase by 36 per cent to reach 1.4 million hectares, due to favourable soil moisture levels in late spring and high water storage levels," Greenville says.

"The area planted to cotton is expected to increase the most, driven by better returns to cotton compared to other summer crops."

 

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