Australian farmers face more hot, dry weather: forecast

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Hot, dry weather will persist across Australia’s east coast for at least another three months, the country’s weather bureau said on Thursday, in a forecast that threatens to severely crimp agricultural production.

There is just a 30% chance that Australia’s east coast will receive average rainfalls between June 1 and Aug. 30, the Bureau of Meteorology said in its winter outlook.

While the dry weather will grip just the east coast, the bureau said there is at least a 70% chance that the entire country will record warmer than average temperatures over the next three months.

The forecast would extend drought conditions that have devastated agricultural production across Australia’s east coast into a third year.

It will fuel concern over the outlook for crops, particularly wheat, the country’s biggest rural export, said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

“There is already growing anxiety about the lack of rainfall in Australia’s cropping regions,” said Gorey.

Australia’s chief commodity forecaster said in March it expected wheat production to rebound 38 percent in 2019/20 to 23.9 million tonnes, but cautioned that rains were urgently needed.

With the poor seasonal conditions, some private analysts have already started to lower their estimates to around 18 million tonnes.

Lower east coast production could also force Australian food producers to make rare imports.

Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources earlier this month approved the first shipment of wheat into the country in more than a decade.

Reporting by Colin Packham; editing by Richard Pullin