Heavy rain threatens Australia’s wheat crop quality

Australia’s wheat growers, reeling from years of drought, now face a new problem, with heavy rainfall provoking concern about the quality of the 2008-09 crop.

The 2008-09 wheat harvest now underway has been disrupted by downpours in some key crop-growing regions in eastern parts of the country, including the northwest of New South Wales state and southern Queensland state.

“The quantity might be slightly better than expected, but recent rain and prospects for more in the short to medium term are now to the fore,” said Richard Koch, chief of farmer consultancy ProFarmer.

The crop had been set to be Australia’s best for three years after the previous two harvests were decimated by the country’s worst drought in 100 years.

Koch said rain would see a large quantity of wheat in northern New South Wales downgraded from high-quality milling wheat because of sprouting.

He said there was insufficient information to tell exactly how much of the crop had been affected by rain, which delayed harvesting in recent days.

ABARE on Nov 5. forecast the total 2008-09 Australian wheat crop would be 19.9 million tonnes, well up on last season’s drought-affected harvest of 13.0 million tonnes.

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