Australia Wheat Quality Hit By Rain, Harvest Slows

Australia’s wheat harvest is being slowed by continuing rain across eastern states, raising concerns over crop quality in one of the world’s top exporters of the grain.

Harvesting is already running up to three weeks behind normal in parts of eastern Australia.

“The issue is when will the rain stop so the harvest can fire up,” said Gavin Warburton, an analyst with Australian Crop Forecasters. “So far it has been a stop/ start harvest.”

Wet weather in Australia, typically the world’s fourth-largest wheat exporter, could lend further support to global wheat prices, which have surged around 45 per cent since mid-year on production issues in other key grain-exporting countries.

Warburton said protein levels in Australia were likely to be lower than normal, leading to quality downgrades, as rain had promoted growth at the expense of protein.

Expected shortages of highprotein Australian Prime Hard (APH) wheat, sought after by makers of Chinese-style yellow noodles and Japanese Ramen noodles, have already led to skyrocketing prices for top-end grades.

“Rain is really hurting quality and that’s seen the premium for APH over APW (Australia Prime White) hit a 15-year high as people short in the market scramble for supplies,” said a Sydneybased grain trader.

Wetter-than-normal weather across eastern Australia, attributed to a La Nińa weather event, has set the country up to produce its second-largest wheat crop on record. Latest estimates peg production at 25.5 million tonnes, putting it close to the record 26.1 million tonnes reaped seven years ago. But production of highprotein APH wheat may fall to between 300,000 and 500,000 tonnes from around two million tonnes produced in an average year.

There were also issues about the availability of noodle- quality wheat in Western Australia, where some areas experienced their driest year in 99 years.

“It is going to be a bit of mixed bag in quality this year in Western Australia which doesn’t augur well for that state’s markets, such as Japan and South Korea, which are after noodle quality,” said Warburton.

Production in Western Australia, normally the country’s top grain-exporting state, is now estimated at 3.5 million tonnes. Last year, the state reaped 8.2 million tonnes of wheat, most of which was exported. But the key eastern grain-producing state of New South Wales is now expected to harvest a record 11 million tonnes.

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