CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) announced on June 10 that it has been a generally favorable start to the 2015–16 winter cropping season across much of Australia thanks to average and above average autumn rainfall in many cropping regions. Executive Director of ABARES, Karen Schneider, said that while the season opening had been generally favorable, El Niño poses a risk to forecast winter crop production.

“Autumn rainfall has generally increased soil moisture levels and improved conditions for the planting of winter crops,” Schneider said. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s latest three?month rainfall outlook forecast drier than average winter conditions for much of New South Wales and southern Queensland and above average winter rainfall across Western Australian cropping regions. It also forecast around average rainfall in South Australia and Victoria.

The Bureau of Meteorology also reported that El Niño in the tropical Pacific continues to strengthen, which increases the likelihood that spring rainfall in eastern Australia will be below average. Schneider said El Niño is often associated with reduced rainfall in Eastern Australia but typically has less impact on rainfall in Western Australia. “The impact of El Niño on winter crop production is difficult to predict, because the timing of rainfall is also significant,” Schneider said. “Australia’s total winter crop production is forecast to increase by around 1 percent to 38.7 million tonnes, which reflects a forecast increase in planted area. For the major winter crops, wheat production is forecast to remain largely unchanged at 23.6 million tonnes; barley production is forecast to increase by 3 percent to 8.2 million tonnes; and canola production is forecast to fall by 13 percent to 3 million tonnes.

“Among other crops, strong demand for chickpeas from India and barley from China has supported prices for these commodities, and the area planted to chickpeas is forecast to increase by around 60 percent to 677,000 hectares, mainly in major growing regions of northern New South Wales and Queensland. Likewise the area planted to barley is forecast to increase by 4 percent to 4 million hectares.”