AUSTRALIA (4 February)
The recently completed 2004 wheat harvest is officially estimated at 20.4 million tonnes, about 20 percent down from the previous year’s record harvest and slightly below the five-year average. Although the planted area was above average, yields were curtailed by generally dry conditions combined with hot temperatures in several major producing areas. The arrival of heavy rains in some eastern parts in December, especially in New South Wales, was too late to benefit the wheat crop and only added to disrupt the harvest and downgrade the quality of some crops. Barley output was similarly affected, with output falling to a below-average 6.5 million tonnes, from 8.7 million tonnes in the previous year.
Despite the lack of rainfall for the growing stages of 2004 winter crop season, the main summer coarse grain crop zones benefited from timely planting rains. The combined sorghum and maize area is estimated to have risen by about 24 percent to almost 800 000 hectares.