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The scene has been set for below-average winter crop harvest volumes, as very low soil moisture levels across Australia curb yield prospects and further plantings remain dependent on rain in the coming four weeks, according to Rabobank’s just-released Australian 2018/19 Winter Crop Outlook.

While the agribusiness banking specialist says there is still time for crops to be planted in most regions, and has only scaled back its Australian winter crop planting forecast to 21.6 million hectares – in line with the five-year average and two per cent down on 2017/18 – this season’s winter crop production and export capacity will be down.

Rabobank senior grains and oilseeds analyst Cheryl Kalisch Gordon said with a delayed start to the season’s plantings due to lack of rain and much of the nation’s crop sown into dry soil, high yield prospects were now largely out of reach.

“High-end yield prospects have been removed, certainly for canola, but increasingly for wheat and barley with average yields, and in some cases less-than-average yields considered likely,” she said.

“Early indications are that Australian wheat production in 2018/19 will be in the order of 22.9 million tonnes, and 36.5 million tonnes for the total winter crop, lower than the 37.8 million tonnes harvested last season.”

Dr Kalisch Gordon, co-author of the report with Rabobank agricultural analyst Wes Lefroy, said given the early stage of the season, the wheat crop could come in between 18 million and 28 million tonnes, while a total winter crop between 28 million and 44 million tonnes was possible. 

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