Australia is at risk of lower summer sorghum, sugar and cotton crops this year due to an unseasonally dry first quarter, according to a forecast by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
The bureau’s latest quarterly forecast shows a moderate shift in the odds favouring a drier-than-normal season through much of Queensland, the northeast half of New South Wales and southwestern Western Australia agricultural belts.
“The production prospects are already weak and this latest forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology only reconfirms that we’ve got a very weak outlook for sorghum production and dryland cotton production in Australia”, said Luke Mathews, an agricultural commodities analyst for CBA Commodities in Sydney.
The pattern of seasonal rainfall across Australia has been heavily influenced by an El Nino pattern of higher-than-average temperatures across the central to eastern Pacific Ocean, the bureau said.
The total area planted to summer crops is forecast to decline nine per cent due to lower sorghum plantings, with the area planted to grain sorghum forecast to be around 637,000 hectares compared with last season’s 754,000 hectares, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
A dry first quarter could also set the stage for a late winter crop planting season if conditions persist into the second quarter, when plantings for winter crops typically start, Mathews said.
“We’re mainly concerned for prospects for summer cropping, which includes sugar,” Mathews said. “The sugar production forecasts, if we realise a drier-than-expected season through the March quarter, will be down on what they could be.”