Australia Raises Wheat Estimate as Harvest Eases Supply Woes

Australia, the second-biggest wheat exporter last season, raised its production forecast after farmers completed a harvest that’s helping ease global supply woes amid concerns drought will erode the U.S. crop.

Output is set to reach 22.1 million metric tons in the 2012-2013 year from 22 million tons estimated in December, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, or Abares, said today. The crop was a record 29.9 million tons in 2011-2012. The bureau maintained its export forecast in the year that started Oct. 1 at 20.9 million tons from a record 24.7 million tons a year earlier, it said.

Wheat climbed 19 percent last year, the best performer among the 24 commodities tracked by the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index, as dry weather from the U.S. to Europe sent prices to the highest in almost four years in July, while corn and soybeans climbed to records. Prices have dropped 4.6 percent this year and corn has advanced 0.6 percent. That put the corn-wheat ratio at the highest level since May on Feb. 5, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The winter-crop harvest in Queensland and New South Wales was completed before the recent flooding and was largely complete in south-eastern Australia before the recent bushfires started,” the bureau’s executive director Paul Morris said in a separate statement. “The recent flooding in some summer cropping regions has so far only caused minor damage to summer crops.”

U.S. Conditions

Wheat for delivery in March was little changed at $7.425 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade at 11:32 a.m. in Singapore. Prices reached $9.4725 on July 23, the most expensive in four years.

The most-severe drought since the 1930s has left U.S. winter-wheat conditions at the lowest since at least 1985. The country’s wheat inventories will be 691 million bushels at May 31, 3.5 percent smaller than forecast in January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Feb. 8

Abares will release its first estimate for production in the 2013-2014 season on March 5. The bureau maintained its forecast for area planted to wheat to 13.3 million hectares (33 million acres).

Canola, Barley

Canola production is forecast at 3.1 million tons, up from 2.6 million tons forecast in December, Abares said. The bureau raised its estimate for barley output to 7.1 million tons from 6.9 million tons in December.

Total winter-crop output -- including wheat, barley and canola -- may be 35.8 million tons in 2012-2013, compared with 45.6 million tons a year earlier, it said.

Cotton production in Australia, last year’s fourth-biggest exporter, was maintained at 945,000 tons on unfavorable conditions including a heat wave in January, the bureau said. The harvest was a record 1.2 million tons a year earlier.

Cotton has climbed 10 percent this year after tumbling to a 32-month low in 2012 on signs of improved demand and smaller global crops, including in the U.S.

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