December 26, 2010

Investigating Drought Effects in Western Australia

Wheat under dry conditionPromar consultant Chisa Ogura recently visited Western Australia to conduct on-site research on the effects of the drought that hit Western Australian grain crops particularly hard this season.

Australia has been plagued by ongoing drought for a decade. In 2010, the east coast of Australia initially breathed a sigh of relief when heavy rainfall produced strong crop growth during the growing season; however the rains then continued far longer than in past years, and this excessive precipitation ultimately reduced grain and sugarcane harvests. In the meantime, Western Australia, which had up until now experienced lighter damage from the ongoing droughts, marked record-low precipitation in the grain belt region during the 2010 growing season. Western Australian grain production dropped below half the normal yearly average to the lowest in the past 20 years.

The photograph above shows stunted wheat in Western Australia that does not even reach knee-height (half the height of past years). The number of wheat seeds per head also dropped.

Western Australia is a major source of the type of wheat used in flour to make Japanese udon noodles. However many Australian producers had already reduced the planting area for the 2010 wheat season and the drought only decreased the production further, leading to tight supply in the Japanese noodle wheat market.