Wheat, barley forecasts mostly higher as seeding gathers pace

Liz Wells, April 20, 2020

Planting Illabo wheat at Bruce Rock in WA last month. Photo: Mitch Hunter, Hunter Fabrication

SOAKING rain across much of New South Wales this month has brightened prospects for Australia’s 2020/21 winter-crop production which has the potential to be above average as planting gets under way in all states.

It has prompted Sydney-based brokerage and consultancy IKON Commodities to lift its forecast for wheat by 2.3 per cent since last month to 28.53 million tonnes (Mt), while its barley number at 9.38Mt is up 3.2pc from last month.

Numbers from Australian Crop Forecasters (ACF) are more conservative, but also show a lift from last month.

ACF’s forecast for new-crop wheat now sits at 23.1Mt, up from 21.6Mt, with production estimates based on five-year average yields.

“We’ve got planted area up across the board, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales, but that hasn’t translated into production estimates being as far above average as planted area due to bad yields in drought affected areas pulling average yields down,” ACF manager insights James Maxwell said.

“It’s far too early to be predicting yields, but I think the take away is this will be the largest area planted in a number of years.

“If all states have a good year, it has potential to be a huge crop.”

Numbers from Lachstock Consulting are in the middle ground, and have wheat steady at 26.1Mt, and barley back by 10,000t from the previous month to 10.3Mt.

“The regional acreage tweaks are largely a result of some slight shifts in intentions towards canola in parts of Victoria and southern NSW, and a few updates on the total pie in WA,” Lachstock said in its most recent barley report.


WHEAT  million tonnes ACF Lachstock IKON vs March
Qld 1.2 1.6 Steady
NSW 6.0 7.7 Up
Vic 3.4 3.3 Up
SA 4.1 4.3 Steady
WA 8.4 9.3 Steady
Total tonnes 23.1 26.1  28.53

Table 1: Wheat production estimates for 2020/21. Totals may not add due to rounding.

Source: ACF, Lachstock and IKON Commodities.

BARLEY tonnes ACF April Lachstock late March IKON vs March
Qld 0.13 0.2 Steady
NSW 1.2 1.5 Up
Vic 2.3 2.2 Up
SA 2.0 2.4 Steady
WA 4.0 4.1 Steady
Total tonnes 9.63 10.3 9.38

Table 2: Barley production estimates for 2020/21. Totals may not add due to rounding.

Source: ACF, Lachstock and IKON Commodities.

Victoria has had early rain and is leading the charge on planting, while NSW is also making good progress.

Planting is advancing in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, but all states need rain by the end of next month for their wheat and barley crops to get a serious look at above-average yield potential.

Given the latest rainfall outlook through to June issued last week by the Bureau of Meteorology, prospects for planting and follow up rain look good in all of Australia’s cropping regions.

Following is a state-by-state round-up of conditions:


Following some excellent rain in January and February, conditions have gotten dry in central Queensland (CQ) and on the Darling and western Downs, where most growers are in need of rain to wet the topsoil and get going on their winter-crop planting.

However, recent storms and showers have delivered some rain, and conditions are generally better close to the NSW border.

ADM trader Michael Vaughan said growers in CQ were planting wheat to capture remaining moisture and get crops established as dry continues.

“Growers have been known to plant wheat through to early July, and if rainfall turns up, this may be in order again,” Mr Vaughan said.

“Chickpea plantings are also under way, but they can moisture seek to greater depth when planting.”

Queensland’s total winter-crop production this year will be well above what was harvested last year, when drought severely limited production in the state’s south.

New South Wales

Only the south-west of NSW has missed out on more than 50 millimetres of rain last month, and further falls have been recorded in April.

Some parts of the state have now had more than 350mm of rain this year, and are planting into a full soil-moisture profile in a massive turnaround from last year, when drought in most farming districts cruelled the state’s chances for a sizeable winter crop.

A chunk of NSW’s canola and dual-purpose wheat crops have been sown already in central and southern areas.

The north of the state is expected to get going this week now that its heavier soils have dried out enough to allow plant to operate without getting bogged.

Good crops in the state’s north-west districts including Burren Junction, Come-by-Chance and Walgett can be the difference between NSW producing an average and a bumper wheat crop.

Due to drought, a pitifully small tonnage has been harvested across the north-west in the past three seasons in a region which can produce up to 1Mt of wheat alone.

Western Australia

Independent Grain Handlers principal Rob Proud said some dry seeding has already occurred in WA with mixed success, and some growers will be reseeding.

All still have time on their side.

“We had good rain last month through the central and eastern wheatbelt, and 10-25mm now would get most of the state moving,

“Come rain, hail or shine, people will be sowing from Anzac Day onwards.”

“Even though the increase in barley area will continue this year in the southern areas of the state, the wheat area is likely to be up in the north and eastern regions of WA,” Grain Industry Association of WA crop report author Michael Lamond said.

“Wheat plantings will definitely be up because the wheat price is strong and there is a question mark around barley.

“As you go further north, because they had a tough year, they are not going to take the risk on break crops, so will just be going wheat.”

South Australia

South Australia has had less rain since 1 January than any other state, but this is not expected to impede its regular dry seeding program.

“Given that we’ve had some years of below-average production, it’s a fair assumption that farmers will be planting bigger areas this year,” Primary Industries and Regions SA senior industry adviser Dave Lewis said.

“They’ll start seeding any time from now.”


Victorian farmers have gotten off to a flying start with planting following successive soaking rain across most of its cropping areas totalling 60-180mm in most areas since January.

Grain Producers Australia chairman and Wimmera grower Andrew Weidemann said he expected the national barley area to stay about the same as last year’s.

“There’s been a swing more to canola given the earlier start, and the strength of the canola price.”



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