AUSTRALIA (14 June)
Prospects for the 2002 winter grain crops have deteriorated in the past two months due to lack of rainfall for planting. It is reported that by early June, planting pace was well behind normal and less than half of the expected 2002 winter crop had been sown. For the main winter grains – wheat and barley – there is still time to plant crops if adequate rainfall occurs in June. However, the wheat area is now forecast to fall by 6 percent from last year to about 11.8 million hectares. Based on current indications yields are also likely to be down from the previous year and below average but, as for the planted area, the final outcome will depend crucially on the amount of rainfall in the coming weeks. The latest official forecast for the 2002 wheat crop, which was released in early June, and assumes the arrival of sufficient rainfall in June, put the wheat output at 20.5 million tonnes, 15 percent down from last year and the lowest level since 1997. Output of barley is also forecast to fall, to about 6.1 million tonnes from almost 7.5 million tonnes in the previous year, also reflecting lower area sown and lower yields. The summer grain harvest is virtually completed and production is estimated to have declined in 2002. Output of sorghum is estimated at about 1.8 million tonnes compared to 2.1 million tonnes in the previous year. Likewise, rice production has fallen to about 1.3 million tonnes, from nearly 1.8 million tonnes last year.