Australia turns to imports to help offset crop losses

Australia will import 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes of wheat from Canada later this year — the first time in 12 years the country will import wheat, but necessary because the worst drought in 116 years has left high-protein wheat in short supply.

Australia is normally a wheat exporter, and had a record grain crop in 2016-17.

Now, drought on Australia’s east coast has led to the shortage of high-protein wheat.

Eastern states are buying wheat from the west, pushing up prices, and reducing exports, but nonetheless further imports will also be needed.

The next wheat crop is being planted now for harvest from September onwards, with growers hoping for more suitable weather.

Meanwhile, Australian beef production in 2019 is projected to fall 3%, hit on the double by persistent dryness through many cattle farming regions, and unprecedented flooding in north-west Queensland. The flooding, in early February, is thought to have drowned 700,000 head.

The national herd is expected to shrink by 7.7%, to 25.2 million head in the year to June 2019.

Australia exported almost 265,000 tonnes of beef during the first quarter, up 11% year-on-year, with increased shipments to China and the US.

However, annual exports are predicted to fall 3% compared to 2018.

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