AUSTRALIA (1 December)

The outlook for the 1997 wheat and coarse grain crops remains generally favourable following timely and abundant rainfall throughout the country’s major producing areas in the past weeks. Average yields are now expected to be somewhat better than earlier anticipated, particularly in southern New South Wales where exceptionally dry conditions were experienced earlier in the season, attributed to El Niño. However, yields will nevertheless be down from last year’s bumper levels, and the overall area seeded to winter grains is estimated to have decreased by about 4 percent. The 1997 wheat crop is officially forecast at 17.6 million tons compared to last year’s record output of 23.7 million tons. Aggregate coarse grain output in 1997 (including the minor summer crop of mostly sorghum and maize harvested earlier in the year) is now forecast at some 8.7 million tons, compared to about 10.5 million tons in 1996. The recent rainfall has also improved prospects greatly for the summer coarse grain crop soon to be planted for harvest in 1998.