Wheat forecast cut 18 per cent

Colin Packham - RAWCountryman
Camera IconWheat. Credit: Danella Bevis

Australia has lowered its forecast for wheat exports in the 2019–20 season by nearly 18 per cent as the drought wilts crops in the world’s fourth biggest exporter of the grain.

That comes after the country’s chief commodity forecaster last week cut its production forecast for the 2019/20 harvest by more than 11 per cent the drought leaves crops struggling to survive.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences on Tuesday said wheat exports would total 11.7 million tonnes in the crop year beginning in July, down from its previous estimate in March of 14.2 million tonnes.

Lower Australian exports will support global benchmark prices, which have rallied nearly 30 per cent over the last six weeks amid concerns over tighter global supplies.

Dwindling wheat exports are also likely to hit Australia's stuttering economy.

Wheat is the country's most lucrative rural export from an agricultural sector worth about $50 billion.

Australian end-users of wheat have been forced into rare imports.

The Department of Agriculture said last week that the first shipment of the commodity into the country in more than a decade had arrived, with ABARES saying more imports were likely.

“More permits are expected to be issued for (imports of) wheat and other grains,” ABARES said.

Much of Australia's east coast has recorded less than 40 per cent of typical rainfall levels over the last six months, data from the country's bureau of meteorology shows.

ABARES also cut its estimate for 2019/20 wool production by nearly nine per cent to 352,000 tonnes, down from its March outlook of 385,000 tonnes.

Australia provides 90 per cent of the world's exported fine-wool used in clothing manufacturing, but the drought has left farmers without enough food or water to keep livestock alive.

ABARES cut its forecast for milk production in the 2019/20 season by 2.5 per cent to 8.6 billion litres, down from its March forecast of 8.82 billion litres.

The expected fall puts more pressure on the country's largest milk processors, Saputo Inc, Fonterra and Bega Cheese Ltd, which have seen profits squeezed by intense local competition for milk supplies.

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