Top of the crops: record production forecast

​​​7 March 2017

After an extraordinary year for Australian grains and oilseed production, ABARES has forecast yields to return to average levels in 2017–18.

ABARES Acting Assistant Secretary, Alistair Davidson, said the forecast decline in production came on the back of record crops of wheat, barley and canola following outstanding seasonal conditions in 2016–17.

“Total winter crop production is estimated to reach a record 58.9Mt—that’s around 30 per cent above the previous record set in 2011–12,” Mr Davidson said.

“Our estimates put national wheat production at 35.1Mt, which is 17 per cent above its 2011–12 record, canola equalling the 2012-13 record from a smaller area planted and barley and pulses both reaching record numbers.

“While these bumper crops are good news for farmers, record breaking cereal production globally has increased competition and pushed prices down to lows, in real terms, that we haven’t seen since the mid-2000s.

“At the farm gate, however, exceptional yields this year offset low prices, especially for wheat and barley.

“Following a decade of strong growth, grain farm incomes are forecast to rise in 2016–17 to average around $398,000 a farm.

“If realised, average cash income for grain farms will be the highest in the past 20 years.”

Mr Davidson said this year’s irrigated summer crops had benefited from a good start, with plentiful supplies of water for Queensland and New South Wales growers leading to well above average areas planted to irrigated cotton and rice.

“Dryland crops, however, had a mixed start due to low soil moisture in parts of Queensland, with Australian sorghum planting at a 24 year low,” Mr Davidson said.

“We expect the hot, dry conditions so far to adversely affect yields for dryland cotton and sorghum.

“Summer crop production in 2016–17 is forecast to be just above the 10 year average at 4.2Mt, up more than 400,000 tonnes on last year.”

Growth in global demand for grains and oilseed is expected to continue over the next five years, driven by population and income growth—particularly in developing countries across Asia, the Middle East and northern Africa.

The analysis was presented at ABARES Outlook 2017, being held in Canberra on Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 March. Australia’s leading forum for public and private decision-makers in agriculture, Outlook marks its 47th annual conference this year with expert analysis of innovation in agriculture.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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