AUSTRALIA (2 June)
Planting of the 2000 winter wheat and coarse grain crops is underway. Good rainfall in early May, adding to ample existing sub-soil moisture after an unusually wet summer and early autumn, ensured planting conditions were generally ideal across the eastern and western grain belt. Early indications of farmers’ planting intention point to a winter wheat area of 11.8 million hectares, virtually unchanged from the previous year. Given good planting conditions, and assuming normal weather for the remainder of the season, a crop of nearly 23 million tonnes is forecast. This would be above the five year average and just below the record crop of 24 million tonnes in 1999. As regards barley, the major winter coarse grain crop, early indications point to a sharp recovery in plantings to almost 3 million hectares after last year’s reduced area.
However, although weather conditions for planting and early development of the winter grain crops are favourable, some uncertainty has been cast over the outcome of the 2000 harvest by an outbreak of locusts since April, reported to be the worst infestation in the past 50 years. Although some damage has already occurred to the earliest emerging cereal crops, the largest threat will be in the spring when the eggs, which are being laid this autumn, hatch. Intensive control measures will be needed over the coming months to prevent potentially very damaging plagues later in the year.
Harvesting of the rice crop is almost complete and output is officially forecast to contract by some 20 percent from the previous season to about 1.1 million tonnes. reflecting a 13 percent reduction in area in addition to lower yields.