Severe Storms Impact Wheat Harvest in Australia
Severe Storms Impact Wheat Harvest in Australia

Severe Storms Impact Wheat Harvest in Australia

  • 29-Nov-2023 6:10 PM
  • Journalist: S. Jayavikraman

The recent onslaught of heavy rainfall across southeastern Australia has dealt a blow to wheat crops, with potential repercussions including a reduction in production by over 100,000 tons. Additionally, the deluge may result in the transformation of up to 1 million tons of milling wheat into lower-quality feed grain, according to analysts closely monitoring the situation.

Australia, a key player in global wheat exports, finds itself navigating challenges during this year's harvest. Earlier in the year, scorching temperatures and insufficient rainfall had already led to a downward revision in production forecasts, bringing the expected output to a range of 25-28 million metric tons, a significant drop from the approximately 40 million tons recorded last year. While the reduced quantity was anticipated, the quality was expected to remain high.

However, the month of November has seen a shift in weather patterns, with increased rainfall impacting the harvesting process. In a span of 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday, parts of New South Wales experienced over 200 millimeters (7.9 inches) of rain, while certain areas in Victoria received more than 80 millimeters. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued severe weather warnings for continued rain and damaging winds in the southeast, precisely where the harvest is in full swing.

The consequence of heavy rain goes beyond the immediate disruption of large machinery, as crops left in the fields under such conditions can succumb to fungus or begin sprouting. The inability to operate machinery and the risks associated with dampened fields have led to farmers temporarily halting harvest activities.

Analysts, including Andrew Whitelaw from Episode 3, express concerns over potential losses, estimating that between 50,000 and 130,000 tons of wheat could be adversely affected, with an additional half a million tons downgraded to lower quality due to the challenging weather conditions. Ole Houe at IKON Commodities provides a grimmer outlook, suggesting that as much as 100,000 tons could be lost, and a staggering 1 million tons may be degraded from milling to feed wheat.

In a slightly more optimistic tone, Rod Baker at Australian Crop Forecasters acknowledges potential losses of up to 50,000 tons, with 500,000 tons potentially diverted to feed-quality wheat. However, all analysts emphasize the fluidity of the situation, highlighting that these estimates are subject to change based on the evolving weather conditions in the days to come. The severity of the impact on Australia's wheat harvest remains contingent on the unpredictable nature of weather patterns, making it a closely monitored situation within the agricultural sector.

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