(Australian Associated Press)
Australian farmers are on track to plant the biggest winter crop in the nation’s history with strong rainfall and high global prices outweighing a mouse plague.
The federal government’s agriculture forecaster is predicting the total area of crops planted to soar beyond 23 million with good prospects in many high-production regions.
ABARES’ latest crop report expects overall crop production to be 46.8 million tonnes, 15 per cent below last year’s record winter harvest but 13 per cent above the 10-year average.
The agency’s acting executive director Jared Greenville said mixed yields due to tougher conditions in some areas would likely reduce production despite the area sown reaching a record high.
“Yield prospects in most cropping regions in New South Wales, Western Australia and much of Queensland are very favourable, given the favourable conditions at the beginning of the winter crop season and the outlook for winter rainfall,” he said on Tuesday.
Drier weather in most of Victoria and South Australia has painted a less rosy picture with most farmers relying on winter rainfall to finish planting.
The mouse plague in NSW and Queensland is expected to increase production costs as farmers use bait to control the damaging pests.
But ABARES does not predict a major hit to national production with mice numbers expected to have peaked and winter setting in to slow breeding rates.
Farm management has minimised winter crop damage but warmer weather in spring could spell a resurgence of mice.
The weather bureau’s winter forecast predicts above-average rainfall in most eastern states and SA.
WA, where the season is off to a flyer, is expecting below-average rain, but most cropping regions are likely to receive higher-than-usual falls for the rest of winter.
Nationally, wheat planting is forecast to rise one per cent to 13.1 million hectares but production is tipped to fall 17 per cent on last year’s record harvest.
With China effectively blocking Australian barley exports, area planted is expected to fall four per cent to around 4.2 million hectares.
Strong prices are forecast to drive canola planting up 25 per cent to almost three million hectares, the third highest on record.