The outlook for the 1996 winter wheat and coarse grain crops remains very favourable. Aggregate winter crop plantings are now officially estimated to have risen to 17.7 million hectares, 7 percent up from last year and the second highest level on record. The combination of excellent, although late, opening rains, relatively high cereal prices and depressed returns for wool are the main reasons for the increase in plantings. As of early September, prospects for winter crops were reported to range from average yields in southern Australia to above-average yields in Queensland and New South Wales. Aggregate wheat production is now officially forecast to rise by 6 percent to 18.8 million tons, while barley output is forecast at almost 5.7 million tons, about 4 percent up from 1995. For the summer crops to be harvested in 1997, despite favourable conditions for planting because of good subsoil moisture levels already established, the area of sorghum and maize is expected to be constrained by the large areas sown to winter crops. Final estimates for the summer crop production in 1996 show an increase of almost 50 percent in the sorghum and maize crops, mostly due to a sharp recovery in production in Queensland after three successive below average crops.
_______________________________ 1/ For the 1997 crop, the wheat area target has been reduced to 400 000 hectares.