MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) released on Feb. 15 its latest Australian crop report, which estimates that the 2010-11 national winter crop will reach 42.1 million tonnes.

Deputy Executive Director of ABARES Paul Morris said this represents a 19% increase on the 2009-10 crop and is the largest harvest since 2003-04.

“Virtually the entire winter crop has now been harvested, and we are in a better position to weigh up the impacts of what has been an extremely variable season in terms of weather conditions,” Morris said.

Overall, the winter crop is estimated to be around 1.1 million tonnes lower than forecast in December. Production in Western Australia is expected to be 1.4 million tonnes higher than earlier forecast, but this is more than offset by a 2.5 million tonne lowering of the forecast for the eastern states, largely due to heavy rains and flooding in December and January.

Morris said that heavy rains and flooding had caused significant hardship for some individuals and businesses who experienced substantial crop losses and damage to their properties.

However, from a national perspective, there had been strong growth in winter cereal production as compared to recent drought-affected years. Of the major winter crops, wheat production is estimated to have increased by 20% to around 26.3 million tonnes, barley production by 18% to 9.3 million tonnes and canola by 11% to around 2.1 million tonnes, compared to the 2009-10 season.

“For summer crops, there have been some areas where crops could not be planted and others where plantings have been damaged, but overall the recent heavy rainfall is expected to benefit crops through good soil moisture and increased water-storage levels,” Morris said. “Overall, summer-crop production for 2010-11 is forecast to increase by 66% to 4.8 million tonnes.”

The increase in availability and access to irrigation water has led to an increase in the area expected to be planted with rice and cotton.

Rice production is forecast to increase to around 802,000 tonnes, due to increased areas planted and favorable growing conditions. Cotton production is forecast to reach a record 839,000 tonnes in 2010-11.

Grain sorghum production is forecast to be 2.2 million tonnes in 2010-11, 39% higher than 2009-10. Grain sorghum yields are expected to be above the five-year average, but lower than the record high experienced in 2007-08.