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Heat And Frost Bookend Aussie Wheat Crop

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The prospect of a better-than-expected Australian wheat crop appears to have faded after extreme weather in grain-growing regions over the weekend of Oct. 17-18.

Grains analysts said frosts in the east of the country and a heat wave in the west could make it difficult to see the 2009/10 harvest, only just begun, to hit the top of its forecast range of between 22.2 million and 23.5 million tonnes.

“It is likely that there’s been some yield reductions associated with frosts in the eastern states and also with the heat over in the west,” said Luke Mathews, a commodity strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA).

He said the frosts and heat waves had come at a critical time for the current crop, with heads of wheat now filling as they mature just as the harvest gets underway.

Australian Crop Forecasters said frosts could have done some damage but, overall, an above-average crop was still likely.

The previous week, the private forecaster raised its estimate of 2009/10 crop to 23.1 million tonnes from a September prediction of 22 million after good rain across southern Australia.

“In the West, because they’ve had good moisture, any damage would have been limited but frosts on the other hand are another issue,” said ACF analyst Gavin Warburton.

“There’s still going to be plenty of grain: any number between 22.5 million and 23.5 million is still possible and if there’s good rain now, possibly 24 million tonnes is still there.”

The average crop in Australia, the world’s fourth largest wheat exporter, was 19.5 million tonnes over the five years to 2008/09.

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