World News

Hot winds severely damage Australian wheat

PERTH (Reuters) - Hot winds this week caused severe damage to the Western Australian wheat crop, further reducing the country’s already struggling crop, Western Australia’s Agriculture Minister said late on Tuesday.

A farmer is seen running her hand through dry dirt in a wheat field near Griffith, 400km north of Melbourne, in this August 22, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

In an interview with Reuters, Minister Kim Chance said bad weather was likely to wipe up to 2 million tonnes from the national wheat crop.

“The hot, windy day this week caused huge damage so we saw a number of crops written down on Monday on the basis of one day’s wind in Western Australia,” Chance said.

“Our total wheat crop could be about 1 or 2 million tonnes lower than the lowest end of the projections made so far,” the state Minister of Agriculture and Food told Reuters.

Australia’s wheat crop nationwide has been hit with extremely dry conditions throughout August, particularly in the past two weeks, analysts said on Wednesday.

This has reduced almost all forecasts of the wheat crop to less than 20 million tonnes, Ron Storey, head of private forecaster Australian Wheat Forecasters, said.

ACF this week reduced its forecast to 19.5 million tonnes and even this was at the upper end of the range of forecasts, he said.

Other trade forecasts were for a crop of 18 million tonnes or even less, he said.

Australia’s official government forecaster, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, is still forecasting a crop of 22.5 million tonnes, but this forecast has been dated by poor weather. The bureau is due to update its forecast on Sept. 18.

Western Australia’s main grains handler and trader, Cooperative Bulk Handling, told Reuters on Wednesday that it was still keeping its estimate of a state wheat crop of between 5 million tonnes and 9 million tonnes.

The wide range took account of the many variables which could affect the crop between the present time and the beginning of harvest in late October, spokesman Rhys Ainsworth said.

Australia’s last wheat crop, for the year to March 2007, was decimated by drought, falling to 9.8 million tonnes from 25.4 million tonnes the year before.

Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures jumped on Tuesday, hitting all-time highs above $8 a bushel as dry weather in Australia and export demand from India squeezed world supplies.

Prices surged again early on Wednesday in Asian electronic trading, with CBOT December wheat up 26 cents at $8.31-½ a bushel.