Western Australia could have biggest grain crop ever

Western Australia state, the nation's biggest wheat producer, may grow its biggest grain crop ever should rain continue to fall during the growing season, CBH Group said.

Total grain output may be between 12 million metric tons and 16 million tons this year, said Michael Musgrave, operations manager for Perth-based CBH, the state's largest grain handler and marketer. The regions biggest crop so far was the 14.6 million tons produced in the 2003-2004 season, he said. Wheat usually accounts for 70 percent of the state's crop.

Farmers in Australia, the world's sixth-largest wheat exporter, are forecast to double output of the grain to 26/27 million metric tons this year to benefit from a 96 percent gain in prices. Growers will start planting wheat after "significant" rain in parts of the state, Musgrave said.

"We believe growers will be very aggressive in terms of planting," he said today in a phone interview. "We're planning for a 16 million ton crop at the high-end."

Parts of the state's wheat growing regions received "significant'' rainfall in the past 24 hours, Musgrave said. The amount of rain ranged from 5 millimeters to 20 millimeters on average, with bigger falls in some areas, he said. Growing regions in the north-east that have suffered drought in previous seasons also got good falls, Musgrave said.