CANOLA crops in Victoria, NSW and Western Australia yielded better than expected, with the national crop shy of the 2011-12 harvest.In its latest crop report, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences has estimated national canola production at 3.089 million tonnes, just 35,000 tonnes short of the record set the previous harvest of 3.124 million tonnes.
The latest estimate is 450,000 tonnes more than ABARES' last estimate in early December after harvesting had begun.
The Victorian canola crop estimate of 540,000 tonnes was 60,000 tonnes more than what was tipped in December.
Canola production in NSW was higher than previously forecast, largely due to ABARES revising the area planted in the state from 600,000ha last December to 650,000ha in its latest forecast.
But the biggest increase in production was in WA, where the crop increased by 32 per cent from 908,000 tonnes last December to today's estimate of 1.2 million tonnes.
That was a combination of ABARES increasing its estimate of the area sown and yields.
ABARES also increased its estimate of the national barley crop by nearly 200,000 tonnes to 7.062 million tonnes, largely due to much larger production in WA and South Australia than was predicted in December.
The WA barley crop rose by 110,000 tonnes to 1.95 million tonnes while SA production was increased by 96,000 tonnes to 1.824 million tonnes.
The bureau surprised analysts by keeping its national wheat crop estimate largely unchanged at 22.077 million tonnes.
Grain companies and other organisations were expecting production to be about 20 million tonnes.
"Protein levels in wheat are generally lower in the eastern states compared with WA, reflecting low soil nitrogen levels from the dry spring," the crop report said.
"Barley and canola quality has been around average across the country, with canola oil levels averaging around the mid-40s (per cent)."
The winter crop harvest was much better than earlier forecasts, with production rising by 700,000 tonnes from ABARES’ December forecast to its latest estimate of 35.78 million tonnes.
Despite dry seasonal conditions, the recent harvest was the eighth largest on record.
The bureau substantially reduced its forecast for the northern grain sorghum crop by about 660,000 tonnes to 1.7 million tonnes – even lower than what some grain organisations were expecting.
The bureau's executive director Paul Morris said the recent heavy rain in northern Australia had come too late to benefit early sown summer crops but would help late-sown crops.