WHEAT AND barley production in Australia is likely to fall below last year‘s bumper crop, but will still be considerably above the five-year average, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

The organisation‘s first forecast for the 2004/05 crop pegged wheat production at 23.2m tonnes, compared with 24.9m tonnes last year and a five-year average of 20.5m tonnes.

Following a large carryover of stocks, this would leave an exportable surplus of about 17.3m tonnes – a 14% rise over 2003.

“If this comes to fruition, Australia will be a major exporter for the second year running,” said Gerald Mason of the Home-Grown Cereals Authority.

“However, they are still very vulnerable over the next few months and with low world stocks it‘s very important that those forecasts are achieved.”

Low rainfall across much of Southern Australia has delayed planting of winter crops, and ABARE‘s forecasts assume a reasonable run of condition until harvest later this year.

Barley production is estimated at 7.8m tonnes, compared with 8.5m tonnes last season and a five-year average of 6m tonnes.

That would leave an exportable surplus of 2.7m tonnes of feed barley and 1.7m tonnes of malting barley – both a slight fall on last season.

Australia, the third largest exporter of malting barley in the world, had been expecting a record crop before the dry conditions arrived.

“Global stocks are still low and prices are very sensitive to crop conditions in any of the major producing countries over the next six months,” said Mr Mason.

“Crops will need to be monitored even more closely than normal.”

Canola (rape) production is pegged at 1.5m tonnes compared with 1.6m tonnes last year due to lower than expected plantings following the dry weather.

Meanwhile, UK wheat prices have risen over the past week, with tighter supply and increased demand boosting old crop futures by £4.00/t, to £83/t on Tues, June 9.

November futures fell slightly due to a lack of export competitiveness, to £71.50/t.