IN ITS Australian crop report – February 2020, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics says production prospects for summer crops in Queensland and northern New South Wales remain well below average.

ABARES acting executive director, Peter Gooday, said, “We are likely to see a 66% decrease in summer crop production down to 878,000 tonnes.

“Cotton production is forecast to fall by 72% to around 135,000 tonnes of lint and 191,000 tonnes of seed.

“Grain sorghum production is expected to be down by 77% to around 292,000 tonnes.

“Rice production will remain low at around 54,000 tonnes due to low water allocations and high water prices.”

ABARES’ winter crop production estimate for 2019-20 will remain largely unchanged from its forecast of December 2019 at around 29 million tonnes.

“Higher than expected barley and canola production is estimated to have largely offset lower than expected wheat production,” Mr Gooday said.

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He said it is an “extremely trying time” for many crop growers, especially those in NSW and QLD.

“Summer crop prospects were adversely affected by unfavourable seasonal conditions in December that further depleted soil moisture levels to well below average in most summer cropping regions and to record lows in some others”, Mr Gooday said.

“With the planting of summer crops in QLD and NSW now largely complete, we expect planted area and production to be lower than our forecasts of December 2019.

“This largely reflects seasonal conditions in December that were more unfavourable than expected.

“Rainfall in late January and in February was largely too late to plant more grain sorghum in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest three-month rainfall outlook indicates that for most summer cropping regions in QLD and northern NSW rainfall is more likely to be below average than above average from March to May.

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