National overview

​​Australian Crop Report: December edition

Australian winter crop production was adversely affected by seasonal conditions in early spring that were more unfavourable than expected in most cropping regions, particularly in Western Australia and southern New South Wales. Rainfall was below average and daytime temperatures above average in most cropping regions. The unfavourable seasonal conditions reduced crop prospects in most cropping regions but the changes in Western Australia and southern New South Wales were the most significant in reducing national production prospects. In contrast, yields in most southern cropping regions in South Australia and Victoria are expected to be average to above average where timely spring rainfall fell.

Harvest is underway in many regions but rainfall in early November slowed progress in southern New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. According to the latest rainfall outlook, issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 21 November 2019, December rainfall is likely to be below average in most cropping regions.

Winter crop production is forecast to fall by 3% in 2019–20 to 29.4 million tonnes, which is a downward revision of 13% from the forecast ABARES published in September. Forecast production is around 27% below the 10-year average to 2018–19 and is set to fall for the third consecutive year since record high production was achieved in 2016–17. Winter crop production in Victoria is expected to account for around 24% of national production, compared to an average of 16% over the 10-years to 2018–19.

For the major winter crops, wheat production is forecast to decrease by 8% to around 15.9 million tonnes, 35% below the 10-year average to 2018–19. Barley production is forecast to increase by 4% to around 8.7 million tonnes, 3% below the 10-year average to 2018–19. Canola production is forecast to fall by 4% to around 2.1 million tonnes, 35% below the 10-year average to 2018–19.

Amongst other crops, chickpea production is forecast to rise by 2% to 289,000 tonnes and oats production is forecast to rise by 5% to 935,000 tonnes.

Table 1 Winter crop production, Australia, 2009–10 to 2019–20
Year Unit New South Wales Victoria Queensland South Australia Western Australia Australia
2009–10 kt 7787 5,889 1,617 7,035 12,943 35,343
2010–11 kt 14784 7,625 1,821 9,316 8,044 41,672
2011–12 kt 11,952 7,352 2,329 7,371 16,600 45,673
2012–13 kt 11,123 6,886 2,156 6,470 11,244 37,936
2013–14 kt 9,773 6,774 1,516 7,221 16,511 41,881
2014–15 kt 10,445 5,117 1,464 7,439 14,662 39,198
2015–16 kt 11,624 3,568 2,104 6,104 14,206 37,687
2016–17 kt 15,510 9,511 3,159 10,656 17,737 56,675
2017–18 kt 7,743 7,612 1,438 7,022 14,510 38,396
2018–19 s kt 2,880 3,733 714 5,286 17,729 30,433
2019–20 f kt 3,616 7,184 678 6,279 11,550 29,405
% change 2018–19 to 2019–20   26 92 -5 19 -35 -3

f ABARES forecast. s ABARES estimate.
Notes: Includes barley, canola, chickpeas, faba beans, field peas, lentils, linseed, lupins, oats, safflower, triticale and wheat. Due to a change in scope by the ABS of its agricultural data collections, crop production is shown for establishments with an estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of $5,000 or more until 2014–15, and an EVAO of $40,000 or more from 2015–16.
Sources: ABARES; ABS

Area planted to winter crops is estimated to have increased to just under 18.1 million hectares, partly because a smaller area of crops intended for grains and oilseeds production was cut for hay this year than last year. The crops planted for grains and oilseeds production that were cut for hay this year were in response to high fodder prices and unfavourable conditions in September in regions with low levels of soil moisture at the beginning of spring.

Table 2 Winter crop area, Australia, 2009–10 to 2019–20
Year Unit New South Wales Victoria Queensland South Australia Western Australia Australia
2009–10 '000 ha 6,106 3,488 1,173 3,783 8,271 22,844
2010–11 '000 ha 6,158 3,457 1,217 3,821 7,715 22,392
2011–12 '000 ha 5,969 3,411 1,205 3,838 8,252 22,693
2012–13 '000 ha 5,852 3,457 1,222 3,776 8,097 22,421
2013–14 '000 ha 5,314 3,283 1,105 3,448 8,249 21,419
2014–15 '000 ha 5,491 3,304 995 3,639 8,313 21,760
2015–16 '000 ha 5,375 2,915 1,049 3,152 7,771 20,283
2016–17 '000 ha 6,062 3,231 1,375 3,904 8,531 23,126
2017–18 '000 ha 5,489 3,509 1,302 3,645 7,898 21,861
2018–19 s '000 ha 2,971 2,903 715 3,326 8,050 17,987
2019–20 f '000 ha 3,126 3,081 657 3,467 7,693 18,048
% change 2018–19 to 2019–20 - 5 6 -8 4 -4 0

f ABARES forecast. s ABARES estimate.

Notes: Includes barley, canola, chickpeas, faba beans, field peas, lentils, linseed, lupins, oats, safflower, triticale and wheat. Due to a change in scope by the ABS of its agricultural data collections, crop production is shown for establishments with an estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of $5,000 or more until 2014–15, and an EVAO of $40,000 or more from 2015–16. Area based on planted crop that is harvested, fed off or failed.
Sources: ABARES; ABS

Area planted to summer crops is forecast to fall by 49% in 2019–20 to around 535,000 hectares, driven by significant expected falls in area planted to grain sorghum and cotton. This reflects very low levels of soil moisture and an unfavourable outlook for seasonal conditions during summer in Queensland and northern New South Wales.

The latest three-month rainfall outlook (December to February), issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 21 November 2019, indicates summer rainfall is likely to be very much below average in most parts of Queensland and northern New South Wales. As a result, summer crop production is forecast to decline by 52% to around 1.2 million tonnes.

Area planted to grain sorghum is forecast to fall by 51% in 2019–20 to 241,000 hectares. Early planting was minimal and late planting would require significant rainfall, which is unlikely given the latest three-month season outlook issued by the Bureau of Meteorology. Production is forecast to more than halve to 398,000 tonnes, the lowest on record. The average yield is assumed to fall by 36% from 2018–19.

Area planted to cotton is forecast to fall by 76% to 82,000 hectares because water levels in dams servicing cotton growing regions are extremely low and soil moisture levels are insufficient to enable planting of dryland cotton. The planted area is expected to be the lowest since 2007–08 when it was 63,000 hectares. Production is forecast to decline by 63% to around 177,000 tonnes of lint and 251,000 tonnes of cottonseed. The average yield is forecast to rise from last season because almost all planting this season is expected to be irrigated.

Area planted to rice is forecast to remain low at around 5,000 hectares in response to low water allocations and high water prices.

Table 3 Summer crop area and production, Australia, 2009–10 to 2019–20
Year New South Wales Queensland Australia
'000 ha kt '000 ha kt '000 ha kt
2009–10 381 1405 514 1342 903 2764
2010–11 713 2514 790 1901 1514 4446
2011–12 757 3064 783 2379 1556 5489
2012–13 711 3205 686 2250 1411 5506
2013–14 568 2317 559 1469 1139 3847
2014–15 435 2044 696 2134 1149 4263
2015–16 412 1646 624 1814 1054 3552
2016–17 662 2289 566 1278 1247 3666
2017–18 614 2205 649 1648 1283 3952
2018–19 s 425 1019 617 1493 1056 2593
2019–20 f 166 482 356 684 535 1243
% change 2018–19 to 2019–20 -61 -53 -42 -54 -49 -52

f ABARES forecast. s ABARES estimate.
Note: State production includes cottonseed, grain sorghum, corn (maize), mung beans, rice, peanuts, soybeans and sunflowers. Total for Australia also includes navy beans, and small areas and volumes of summer crops in other states. Due to a change in scope by the ABS of its agricultural data collections, crop production is shown for establishments with an estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of $5,000 or more until 2014–15, and an EVAO of $40,000 or more from 2015–16. Area based on planted crop that is harvested, fed off or failed.
Sources: ABARES; ABS

Statistical tables

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Last reviewed: 2 December 2019
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