Western Australian wheat output to beat forecasts-exporter

MELBOURNE, July 29 Tue Jul 29, 2014 12:25am EDT

MELBOURNE, July 29 (Reuters) - Australia's largest grain producing state Western Australia is likely to beat official forecasts for wheat output in the 2014/15 season by about 1 million tonnes, or 12 percent, wheat exporter CBH Group said on Tuesday.

The state's wheat crop is expected to hit 9.4 million tonnes out of total grain production of 15.4 million tonnes, CBH Group's manager for marketing and trading Jason Craig told reporters on the sidelines of a grains conference.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) last month forecast Western Australian wheat production at 8.4 million tonnes, down from a bumper harvest of 10.5 million tonnes in the 2013/14 season.

An increase in Western Australian wheat production would supplement national production, already seen under pressure from dry weather across Australia's east coast.

The state typically accounts for more than a third of Australia's wheat output.

Craig said his forecast was based on better-than-expected yields, but cautioned the size of the crop could ease in the event of drier than usual weather.

Much of Western Australia's grain belt saw less than 80 percent of typical monthly rainfall in June, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said, but the bureau currently sees rains in the state at average levels over the next three months.

ABARES last month trimmed its forecast for Australian wheat production in 2014/15 by 1 percent to 24.588 million tonnes, although analysts said expected drier-than-average weather across the east coast over the next three months could threaten yields.

"In Australia, the wheat growing season is again being characterised by two very different production outlooks across regions. A lack of rainfall in July in northern New South Wales and Queensland is starting to loom as an issue for crop development," said Paul Deane, senior agricultural economist, ANZ Bank.

"In contrast, crops further south have benefited from not only an exceptional start to the season, but rainfall in July is still near long-term averages," he said at the Australian Grains Industry Conference. (Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Richard Pullin)