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Australian winter crop plantings forecast to rise 3.6 per cent in 2024/25: Rabobank

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
Australian grain growers are forecast to plant 23.55 million hectares of winter crops this year despite a mixed start to the season. Pictured: Seeding at North Doodlakine.
Camera IconAustralian grain growers are forecast to plant 23.55 million hectares of winter crops this year despite a mixed start to the season. Pictured: Seeding at North Doodlakine. Credit: Caleb Levy/Caleb Levy

Australian grain growers are forecast to plant 23.55 million hectares of winter crops this year — up 3.6 per cent on 2023 — despite a dry start to the season in WA.

Driving the increase was a positive forecast for NSW and Queensland, and overall better margins year-on-year, according to Rabobank’s 2024/25 winter crop outlook report.

But total production of grains and oilseeds would depend on the expected onset of a late-season La Niña weather pattern in the second half of the year.

Rabobank analyst Vitor Pistoia predicted total crop production would be “near average” for the season at 46.3 million tonnes.

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“It’s currently a tale of two coasts, at least for the season’s start, with strong early sowing in the east, but a dry start in the west,” he said.

“(Rabobank predicts) a tough start for WA, SA and western Victoria, with a mid-to-late season recovery following better rainfall due to La Niña.”

Rabobank analyst and winter crop outlook report author Vitor Pistoia.
Camera IconRabobank analyst and winter crop outlook report author Vitor Pistoia. Credit: Rabobank

The forecast winter crop planting — down 1.8 per cent on the five-year average — favoured wheat, with the area planted expected to jump 7.7 per cent (961,000ha) on last year, to 13.48m million ha.

Canola was projected to shrink 12.7 per cent (450,000ha) to 3.11 million ha due to dry conditions in WA and SA, coupled with potential lower gross margins compared with previous seasons.

“This would see wheat acreage at 6.9 per cent above the five-year average and canola still at 5.1 per cent above its five-year average despite the acreage decline,” the report said.

“Barley will likely take second place in the expansion this year, with an estimated 5.1 per cent (210,000ha) rise on last year’s planting to 4.33 million ha.”

Despite the expansion, the figure would be 10.3 per cent below the five-year average.

“Oats will likely show a minimal uptick of 12,000ha to a total of 700,000ha, while planting intentions for pulses suggest acreage growth of 5.2 per cent year-on-year to 1.93 million ha,” Mr Pistoia added.

PRODUCTION

The total winter crop forecast comprised 27.4Mt of wheat, up 5.7 per cent on 2023, and 10Mt of barley, down 7.2 per cent.

The 2024/25 canola crop is tipped to decrease by 11.4 per cent to 5Mt.
Camera IconThe 2024/25 canola crop is tipped to decrease by 11.4 per cent to 5Mt. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

Canola volumes were tipped to decrease by 11.4 per cent to 5Mt, oats to drop 6.1 per cent to 960,000t, and pulses to fall 10.8 per cent to 2.8Mt.

Nationwide, crop plantings were projected to rise or remain relatively steady in every state despite the dry start to the season in parts of the country.

“Despite a delay in the season’s break, WA is on track to increase its cropping area by 3.2 per cent from last season to 8.905 million ha,” Mr Pistoia said.

“Crop margins are in a better position compared with last year and paddocks that went fallow will re-enter cropping programs.”

PRICES

Grain prices were expected to “hold firm” in the year ahead, with 2024/25 likely to be the fifth consecutive season of dwindling global ending stocks for wheat.

“Dry weather and frost in the Black Sea region has tilted the supply and demand balance for wheat towards a positive price cycle,” Mr Pistoia said.

Port prices for Australian Premium White wheat were likely to range from AUD $360 to $390/t by harvest time, down eight to 12 per cent compared to last year.

Barley prices during harvest were on track to be in the $350 to $370/t range for east coast ports and $320 to $340/t for WA and SA.

The price difference was attributed to WA and SA’s larger barley export profile, which meant barley from these states would be competing with cheaper corn on global markets.

Australia’s malt barley premiums remain the weakest of all the major barley exports due to soft demand from maltsters in key South-East Asian export markets.

“Therefore barley industry drivers are currently heavily entwined in the feed market and the livestock sector’s future,” Mr Pistoia said.

Meanwhile, the reduction in Australian supply should boost canola prices, with global ending stocks poised to decline year-on-year.

“This means Australian non-GM canola port prices could range between $680 and $720/t at the next harvest, with WA figuring in the top range due to its comparatively shorter transit time to South-East Asia and Europe,” Mr Pistoia said.

Excluding carryover stocks from previous seasons, Australia was expected to export 19.8Mt of wheat, 3.9Mt of barley and 3.6Mt of canola.

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