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Australia eyes record farm export earnings from bumper wheat harvests

By Renju Jose

SYDNEY, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Australian farmers are expected to earn a record amount from agriculture exports this financial year, the country's chief commodity forecaster said on Tuesday, as it raised its estimate on the back of favourable weather and high global prices.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) said farm export earnings could total a record A$70.3 billion ($48 billion) for 2022-23. That is up around 8% from its previous forecast in June.

Australia's east coast has been dominated by La Nina, typically associated with increased rainfall, over the last two years. While triggering flooding in several places, the weather pattern has also brought good rains across the eastern wheat belt.

ABARES has forecast wheat production of 32.2 million tonnes and 6.6 million tonnes for canola, just shy of their records hit last year. Barley production is expected to total 12.3 million tonnes, the fourth largest on record.

"Winter crop prospects in Australia are looking very promising at the beginning of spring - we're forecasting a 55.5 million tonne harvest," ABARES Executive Director Jared Greenville said in a statement.

Planting of summer crops is forecast to be well above average for the current season supported by suitable soil moisture and more land previously left fallow during winter.

The forecast could bring relief after Russia's war in Ukraine limited shipments from one of the top grain exporting regions. The conflict has tightened global food supplies, sending prices higher and fuelling concerns of a food crisis.

Though favourable seasonal conditions are expected to persist, soaring global inflation, a sluggish Chinese economy and rising costs of fertilisers and farm equipment could take some shine off a bumper harvest, Greenville said.

Greenville said the latest forecasts have also factored in tapering global growth and the likelihood of a third straight La Nina, roughly a once in a 30-year weather event.

The country's weather bureau last month said Australia was facing a 70% chance of La Nina returning in Spring. ($1 = 1.4648 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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