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Australian grain imports halt as crops progress
Reuters
SYDNEY , The heat is off Australia's drought-frazzled grains industry as new crop progress brings embarrassing wheat imports to an end and prompts farmers to liberate stashed stocks.
No imports have taken place since early June and with Australia's first harvest supplies only two months away it was expected no more would come into the country, import authorities and grain industry leaders told Reuters on Friday.
This brings to end one of the most difficult periods in the Australian grains industry, when the worst drought in 100 years crushed last season's crops, forcing the second largest wheat exporting country in the world to import emergency grain supplies to feed starving livestock.
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) told Reuters on Friday that no more imports were in the pipeline.
Grains Council of Australia president Keith Perrett said there would be no more imports since it took six to eight weeks to bring shipments in and first new crop wheat supplies would be harvested in Queensland state in eight to 10 weeks.
"There will be a tight supply period over the next couple of months. But there should be grain there," he said.
Australia imported 48,000 tonnes of maize, 285,000 tonnes of wheat, 17,300 tonnes of stockfeed and 126,600 tonnes of stockfeed ingredients for total imports of 476,900 tonnes in 2003, AQIS spokesman Carson Creagh told Reuters.
This is less than the 600,000 tonnes of feed wheat which AQIS earlier expected, on industry advice, would be imported in 2003.
Sufficiently good rains had set up what appeared likely to be a "reasonable harvest" in Australia for 2003/04, Perrett said.
A wheat crop of 21 million tonnes and a barley crop of 6.5 million tonnes were possible with foundations now laid, he said.
Australia's 2003/04 wheat forecasts are now clustered around 21 million tonnes, indicating exports of about 14 million tonnes. Government unit the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) is forecasting 21.7 million tonnes, wheat exporter AWB Ltd 20-22 million, private forecaster Australian Wheat Forecasters 22.32 million and the United States Department of Agriculture's Canberra attache 21 million.
This is sharply up from Australia's drought-affected 9.4 million tonnes in 2002/03.
For barley, ABARE is forecasting a 2003/04 crop of 6.7 million tonnes, AWF sees 6.3 million, and the USDA's Canberra attache 6.6 million.
Australia is one of the top world wheat and barley exporters.
Debate continues over whether Australia's drought has broken.
MGR Archive 14.7.2003
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