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Australia Wheat forecast 'too high'
THE Grains Council of Australia has cast doubt on a new forecast of a strong rebound in crop production this year, saying it is too optimistic.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics last week predicted a sharp jump in winter crop plantings and production, including a near-record 24.9 million tonne wheat crop.

ABARE said the forecast was based on Bureau of Meteorology assessments of a greater than 50 per cent chance of average rainfall across much of southern Australia over the next three months.

''This is optimistic, given that most of Australia's cropping area is still drought-affected,'' GCA chair Murray Jones said.

''A few producing areas have seen a promising increase in sub-soil moisture, but the majority of wheat production country is still very, very dry.''

The wheat crop estimate in particular depended on rain falling ''in the right areas at the right pace at the right time,'' Mr Jones said.

''ABARE's predictions are basically a calculation of an average 1.9 tonnes per hectare yield, based on projected plantings of 13 million hectares.

''We hope they're correct, but it all depends on rain.''

Mr Jones said GCA agreed with ABARE on the gloomy outlook for wheat prices over the coming year, with world production set to increase.

ABARE is predicting national pool prices to fall to an average of $216 a tonne during 2006-07, well down on the $242 expected for the current drought-affected harvest of 9.8 million tonnes.

Mr Jones said a major concern for many wheat producers was the pricing of the next crop.

''Now AWB has temporarily decided to withdraw from taking forward positions, producers have to look to alternatives.''

Producers should talk to their farming adviser or to growers who have sold wheat to companies other than AWB or used non-AWB risk management products, Mr Jones said.

The single desk for wheat exports also sparked debate at the conference after presentations by two anti-desk speakers, GrainCorp managing director Tom Keene and Louis Dreyfus Australia commercial manager Alick Osborne.

Both argued that wheat export marketing should be deregulated, with Mr Keene saying independent research showed 60 per cent of growers wanted change.

But Victorian Farmers' Federation president Simon Ramsay said while growers may not support the status quo, they strongly backed the single desk model.
MGR Archive 14.3.2007
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