Australian Farmers To Plant Less Wheat, More Rapeseed

Australian farmers in NSW will plant less wheat and more rapeseed for the 2010/11 harvest, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

They say that winter wheat sowings in the state will decline 8% to 2.84 million ha, with rapeseed plantings climbing 26% to almost 292,000 ha.

"The low price for wheat is contributing to grower intentions to stick with canola despite its higher growing costs. Prospects have increased in the north but further rainfall on already saturated paddocks around Coonamble and Walgett may impact intended sowings. Most areas in the centre and south have good subsoil moisture, with sowing to commence on the next rain. Some canola has already been sown on the upper slopes as a dual-purpose crop," they say.

"With reasonable subsoil moisture levels across most of the state, (wheat) growers will be looking for a sowing rain of 25-50 mm from mid April to allow widespread plantings to commence," they add.

For now, barley planting in the state will remain flat at around 725,000 ha, they say. Although "If sowing rains don’t arrive until late May, sowings could increase across the state, especially in western areas," they predict.

With the price outlook for wheat pretty dismal, farmers are looking for alternative cropping options, as well as increasing rapeseed plantings, chickpea sowings are seen 41% higher this year to an all-time high of 337,420 ha.

The situation in NSW is expected to be replicated on a national level, that doesn't necessarily mean lower wheat production though. Summer rains have been pretty good in general, and farmers are well advanced with their winter sowing plans.

Although much depends on winter rainfall, early sowing won't do any harm in giving the crop a fighting chance of making a decent yield. Rabobank recently raised their 2010/11 wheat production estimate from 20 MMT to 21.8 MMT. Abare are currently predicting a crop of 21.94 MMT, despite a drop in acreage, with the National Bank of Australia coming in even higher at 22.6 MMT.