The start of the 2019–20 winter crop season was mixed, according to Australian crop report published in June by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES). Above average rainfall in important growing regions in South Australia, Victoria and southern New South Wales during May replenished soil moisture levels and created favourable planting and growing conditions. However, autumn rainfall in most cropping regions in Western Australia, northern New South Wales and southern Queensland was lower than average and soil moisture levels remained low. The below average rainfall and low soil moisture levels in these regions constrained planting and hampered early development of dry sown crops. Low soil moisture levels also mean most crops in these regions will need sufficient and timely rainfall to develop over winter. Crops in South Australia, Victoria and southern New South Wales will be less reliant on winter rainfall because of favourable levels of soil moisture in these regions at the end of autumn.
Winter rainfall is likely to be average in Western Australia and below average in most other cropping regions, according to the latest three-month rainfall outlook issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 30 May 2019.
There is a significant chance that most areas unlikely to exceed median rainfall will receive enough rainfall to sustain crops that established successfully through until spring.
Area planted to winter crops in Australia is forecast to rise by around 9% to 19.6 million hectares in 2019–20, largely reflecting significant area taken out of grains and oilseed production and cut for hay in 2018–19.
For the major winter crops, area planted to wheat is forecast to increase by 8% to around 11 million hectares, area planted to barley is forecast to increase by 12% to 4.2 million hectares and area planted to canola is expected to increase by 6% to 2 million hectares.
Amongst other crops, area planted to chickpeas is forecast to increase by around 22% to 370,000 hectares, area planted to oats is forecast to rise by 17% to 798,000 hectares.
Winter crop production is forecast to rise by around 20% in 2019–20 to 36.4 million tonnes. However, the 20% increase is from the 2018–19 crop that was adversely affected by frosts and drier than average seasonal conditions in many cropping regions, especially outside of Western Australia. If realised, the forecast 2019–20 crop will be around 10% below the 10 year average to 2018–19. For the major crops, wheat production is forecast to rise by 23% to 21.2 million tonnes, barley production is forecast to rise by 11% to 9.2 million tonnes, and canola production is forecast to rise by 18% to 2.6 million tonnes.
Summer crop production is estimated to have declined by 35% in 2018–19 to 2.6 million tonnes, driven by falls in production of cotton and rice. However, production of grain sorghum increased slightly. The area planted to summer crops declined by 18% to 1.1 million hectares.
Grain sorghum production is estimated to have increased by 2% in 2018–19 to 1.3 million tonnes, reflecting an increase in the planted area.
The 2018–19 cotton harvest is largely complete and production is estimated to have decreased by 54% to around 485,000 tonnes of lint and 685,000 tonnes of cottonseed. Area planted to cotton is estimated to have declined by 35% to 343,000 hectares, largely reflecting drier than average seasonal conditions during the planting window and reduced supplies of irrigation water.
Rice production is estimated to have declined by 91% in 2018–19 to 59,000 tonnes. This decline reflects a 90% decline in planted area due to reduced supplies of irrigation water available to rice producers in New South Wales.