High prices around the world are encouraging farmers to plant more grain and Australia is preparing to plant a bumper wheat crop in 2008 following last year's disastrous drought that drastically slashed yields.
The current year's crop yielded around 12.7 million tons, ahead of the previous year's drought-affected crop of 9.8 million tons but well down from 25.4 million tons in 2005-06. World wheat prices surged to record highs as leading buyers scrambled to secure supplies following a sharp decline in Australia's wheat output. "There's no question that these prices right around the world are encouraging farmers to plant more grain. To the extent that we can increase the acres we will," said Ron Storey, head of Australia's leading private forecasting agency, Australian Crop Forecasters. Storey and other industry analysts said farmers still had months to go before the next plantings, and that rain in April and following months would be the main factor for a good harvest. But recent flooding following rains across large tracts of eastern Australia have soaked moisture into parched lands. Australia is normally the second-biggest wheat exporter in the world, after the United States. While recent downpours in Australia's northeastern grains growing areas were one of the best signs in years for farmers, wheat growers will ideally need plentiful rains in April to help harvest a bumper crop, which is mostly planted in May and June, pointed out Storey.