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Drought slashes Australian wheat crop

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Oct 30, 2007
Australia's wheat, barley and canola winter crops were again revised lower Tuesday due to the severity of the long-running drought, the country's official forecaster said.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics said the winter wheat crop for 2007/08 would drop from the September estimate of 15.5 million tonnes to 12.1 tonnes due to a lack of drenching rains.

Barley would fall from a projected 5.9 million tonnes to 5.0 million tonnes and canola drop from 1.1 million tonnes to 900,000 tonnes, it said.

The bureau said rainfall during the crucial September to October period had been well below average in the country's main grain-growing regions, with some areas of New South Wales recording their lowest ever levels for those months.

"This lack of rainfall, combined with hotter than average daytime temperatures and strong winds, has led to the rapid deterioration of crop yield potential and in many areas has resulted in total crop failure," ABARE executive director Phillip Glyde said.

The three major crops of wheat, barley and canola will amount to 18.0 million tonnes for the year -- about 42 percent below the five-year average but still 4.0 million tonnes above the previous year's output, the bureau said.

ABARE said poor pasture growth and high feedgrain prices had also forced farmers battling the worst drought in a century to continue to reduce stock numbers.

But the bureau said the outlook for summer crop production was promising, with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology suggesting above-average rainfall is likely for some farming regions.

In September the bureau said the drought, which has stretched to seven years in some parts of the country, was expected to slash wheat production in the coming year by a third from 22.5 million tonnes to 15.5 million tonnes.

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