Winter crop production up across nation

15 Feb, 2016 01:00 AM
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Drought impacted crops in Victoria did not stop national winter crop production rising 4pc year on year.
Drought impacted crops in Victoria did not stop national winter crop production rising 4pc year on year.

QUEENSLAND’S biggest winter crop since 2012-13 and better than average seasons in NSW and WA have helped push post-harvest Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences (ABARES) production estimates to 39.5 million tonnes.

This will represent a 4pc year on year increase.

One of the big drivers of the increase has been the big lift in production in Queensland, where total tonnages will come in at around 2.1 million tonnes, up a whopping 39pc.

Much of this increase comes from an incredible lift in chickpea production.

According to ABARES, chickpea tonnages in Queensland more than doubled to 555,000 tonnes last season, due largely to near record prices and the improved agronomic conditions in key planting zones on the Darling Downs.

ABARES executive director Karen Schneider said there was a similar story in terms of chickpea production in NSW, where the final figure of 439,000 tonnes was up 55pc year on year.

“National chickpea production is estimated to have increased significantly to 1 million tonnes, following a 56pc increase in planted area,” she said.

“The increase in planting was in response to higher chickpea prices.”

But while the northern cropping zone was favoured by a good season, things were not so rosy in the south.

This was reflected in total canola production, which has key growing zones in Victoria, southern NSW and SA, which was back 15pc to 2.9mt, the first time in six seasons total production has dipped below 3mt.

In all, Ms Schneider said production of the nation’s most widely grown crop, wheat, were up 5pc to 24.2 million tonnes, while barley production was up 4pc.

There was a welcome change of fortune in NSW, which produced 7.5mt of wheat, around 1mt more than the past two drought impacted seasons, while WA was 6pc above its five year average, with 8.8mt.

While eastern South Australia was impacted by drought, Ms Schneider said good yields on the Eyre Peninsula meant SA was above its ten year average up to 2014-15 for total grain production at 7.2mt, with 4.4mt of wheat.

Victoria was the major disappointment, with key production zones feeling the full brunt of last year’s El Nino event.

There was a 16pc downturn year on year, but 2014-15 was also impacted by drought conditions, meaning total production for 2015-16 is actually around 40pc lower than the five year average at just 4.1mt and the lowest since 2008-09.

ABARES is now focusing on the summer crop.

Surprisingly, given the good summer rain in key dryland summer cropping areas in northern Australia, it predicts the summer crop will fall by 6pc to 3.9mt.

However, this figure is largely due to a fall in rice production in southern NSW, where rising irrigation costs and lack of access to water have kept a lid on plantings, with sorghum, cotton and mung bean crops in northern NSW and Queensland generally in good condition.

“For dryland summer crops, widespread rainfall across cropping regions in Queensland and northern NSW in late January and early February improved the production outlook,” Ms Schneider said.

“But the area planted to rice is estimated to have fallen by 56pc in 2015–16 to around 31,000 hectares.

“Rice production is forecast to fall by 58 per cent to 305,000 tonnes, assuming average yields.

She said the major trend in the north was a swing into cotton and mung beans, caused by increases in prices in these commodities and suitable planting conditions at sowing time.

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FarmOnline
Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media

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