National overview

Australian Crop Report: December edition

Key points

  • Winter crop production is forecast to decrease by 23% in 2018–19 to 29.3 million tonnes.
  • Forecast winter crop production is 20% below the 20 year average to 2017–18 but 69% above the lowest production during this period.
  • Winter crop production in Western Australia is expected to account for 56% of national production in 2018–19, compared with an average of 36% in the 20 years to 2017–18.
  • November to date rainfall has been generally average across summer cropping regions in northern New South Wales and Queensland.
  • Prospects for summer crops will be highly dependent on sufficient and timely rainfall because of low levels of soil moisture in a number of regions.

Australian winter crop prospects deteriorated in early spring because of unfavourable seasonal conditions in most cropping regions. September rainfall was very much below average in many cropping regions and the lowest on record in some others. Additionally, significant frost events occurred in southern New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The combination of reduced crop prospects and high fodder prices provided producers in some regions with a strong incentive to cut many crops that were planted for grain production for hay. In some regions, particularly in New South Wales, many crops in very poor condition were either grazed or abandoned.

October rainfall was above average in most cropping regions in Queensland, northern New South Wales, Western Australia, and mostly average in other cropping regions. This rainfall benefitted crop prospects in southern New South Wales, southern Wimmera in Victoria, southern South Australia and Western Australia. However, it arrived too late in other regions to benefit winter crops. On balance, the benefit of October rainfall was much smaller than damage that resulted from unfavourable seasonal conditions during September.

Harvesting of winter crops is largely complete in Queensland and is underway in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Quality of crops harvested to date has varied widely among different crops and regions but not enough has been harvested to assess overall crop quality. Rainfall in late October and November has slowed harvest progress in some cropping regions but is not expected to significantly affect overall crop quality. According to the latest rainfall outlook issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 29 November 2018, there is no strong tendency toward either higher or lower than average December rainfall in most cropping regions.

Winter crop production is forecast to decrease by 23% in 2018–19 to 29.3 million tonnes. This forecast is in line with the revised outlook for winter crop production published by ABARES in the 25 October edition of the Weekly Australian climate, water and agricultural update.

While forecast winter crop production in 2018–19 is 20% below the 20 year average to 2017–18, it is 69% above the lowest production during this period. This is because exceptionally unfavourable seasonal conditions in 2018–19 affected less cropping area than during droughts in 1994–95, 2002–03, 2006–07 and 2007–08. Winter crop production in Western Australia is expected to account for 56% of national production in 2018–19, compared with an average level of 36% in the 20 years to 2017–18.

For the major winter crops, wheat production is forecast to decrease by 20% to around 17.0 million tonnes, barley production is forecast to fall by 18% to around 7.3 million tonnes, and canola production is forecast to fall by 39% to around 2.2 million tonnes. Amongst other crops, chickpea production is forecast to decrease by 71% to 330,000 tonnes and oats production to fall by 21% to 888,000 tonnes.

Table 1 Winter crop production, Australia, 1998–99 to 2018–19
YearUnitNew South WalesVictoriaQueenslandSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaAustralia
1998–99kt97183,5072,3236,30412,23334,160
1999–00kt115265,2522,2214,77013,31237,143
2000–01kt108296,2661,3397,4298,72434,663
2001–02kt111705,8931,1568,79612,04239,134
2002–03kt34851,9438294,2236,81217,361
2003–04kt107956,9611,4507,35916,67643,315
2004–05kt107124,2141,3915,29812,97834,671
2005–06kt119816,2671,4337,51813,94541,226
2006–07kt37941,7489242,7938,27817,580
2007–08kt39994,6921,1944,70610,76125,415
2008–09kt94383,8872,3264,86313,78534,378
2009–10kt77875,8891,6177,03512,94335,344
2010–11kt147847,6251,8219,3168,04441,672
2011–12kt11,9527,3522,3297,37116,60045,670
2012–13kt11,1236,8862,1566,47011,24337,934
2013–14kt9,7736,7731,5167,22116,51041,878
2014–15kt10,4455,1171,4647,43914,66239,197
2015–16kt11,6243,5682,1046,10514,20637,687
2016–17kt15,5109,5133,15910,66117,73756,678
2017–18 skt7,2287,6521,4636,94514,61937,963
2018–19 fkt3,1373,7448025,22616,26729,268
% change 2017–18 to 2018–19 –57–51–45–2511–23
% change 2018–19 to lowest production -1093-32413969

f ABARES forecast. s ABARES estimate.

Notes: Includes barley, canola, chickpeas, faba beans, field peas, lentils, linseed, lupins, oats, safflower, triticale and wheat. Due to a change in scope by the ABS of its agricultural data collections, crop production is shown for establishments with an estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of $5,000 or more until 2014–15, and an EVAO of $40,000 or more from 2015–16.

Winter crop area is estimated to have fallen by 20% in 2018–19. This is because less area was planted at the beginning of the 2018–19 winter crop season and significant area planted for grain production in eastern states (including South Australia) was cut for hay during spring.

Table 2 Winter crop area, Australia, 2008–09 to 2018–19
YearUnitNew South WalesVictoriaQueenslandSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaAustralia
2008–09’000 ha6,2953,4921,2083,9797,89922,901
2009–10’000 ha6,1063,4881,1733,7838,27122,844
2010–11’000 ha6,1583,4571,2173,8217,71522,392
2011–12’000 ha5,9693,4111,2053,8388,25222,693
2012–13’000 ha5,8523,4571,2223,7768,09722,421
2013–14’000 ha5,3143,2831,1053,4488,24921,419
2014–15’000 ha5,4913,3049953,6398,31321,760
2015–16’000 ha5,3752,9151,0493,1527,77120,283
2016–17’000 ha6,0623,2311,3753,9048,53123,126
2017–18 s’000 ha5,4963,3331,3093,5058,44122,101
2018–19 f’000 ha2,9392,9187423,3157,79717,734
% change 2017–18 to 2018–19–47–12–43–5–8–20

f ABARES estimate. s ABARES estimate.

Notes: Includes barley, canola, chickpeas, faba beans, field peas, lentils, linseed, lupins, oats, safflower, triticale and wheat. Due to a change in scope by the ABS of its agricultural data collections, crop production is shown for establishments with an estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of $5,000 or more until 2014–15, and an EVAO of $40,000 or more from 2015–16.

Summer crop planting in Queensland and northern New South Wales increased following favourable late spring rainfall. However current low levels of soil moisture in most regions is likely to constrain planting in the absence of further rainfall during the summer crop planting window.

According to the latest three-month rainfall outlook (December to February), issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 29 November 2018, there is no strong tendency toward either above or below average summer rainfall in cropping regions in New South Wales. Summer rainfall in Queensland is more likely to be below average than above average.

Area planted to summer crops is forecast to decrease by 18% in 2018–19 to 1.1 million hectares driven by forecast falls in area planted to rice and cotton. Summer crop production is forecast to fall by 24% to 3.1 million tonnes.

Area planted to grain sorghum is forecast to increase by 8% in 2018–19 to 572,000 hectares in response to favourable prices. Grain sorghum production is forecast to increase by 6% to 1.5 million tonnes.

Area planted to cotton is forecast to fall by 44% in 2018–19 to 280,000 hectares. This is because below average rainfall in 2018 resulted in a significant fall in water levels in irrigation dams serving cotton-growing regions and low soil moisture levels. Cotton production is forecast to fall by 42% to around 581,000 tonnes of cotton lint and 822,000 tonnes of cottonseed.

Area planted to rice is forecast to fall by 75% to 15,100 hectares in 2018–19 reflecting low water allocations in southern New South Wales.

Table 3 Summer crop area and production, Australia, 2008–09 to 2018–19
YearNew South WalesQueenslandAustralia
’000 hakt’000 hakt’000 hakt
2008–094021,4307462,3501,1563,794
2009–103811,4055141,3429032,764
2010–117132,5147901,9011,5144,446
2011–127573,0647832,3791,5585,494
2012–137113,2056862,2501,4125,506
2013–145682,3175591,4691,1393,846
2014–154352,0446962,1341,1494,263
2015–164121,6566241,8211,0543,562
2016–176622,2865661,2801,2473,667
2017–18 s6142,2627111,8141,3354,103
2018–19 f4751,5326121,5371,0983,098
% change 2017–18 to 2018–19-23-32-14-15-18-24

f ABARES forecast. s ABARES estimate.

Note: State production includes cottonseed, grain sorghum, corn (maize), mung beans, rice, peanuts, soybeans and sunflowers. Total for Australia also includes navy beans, and small areas and volumes of summer crops in other states. Due to a change in scope by the ABS of its agricultural data collections, crop production is shown for establishments with an estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of $5,000 or more until 2014–15, and an EVAO of $40,000 or more from 2015–16.

Statistical tables

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Last reviewed:
03 Dec 2018