South Australia's 2018–19 grain harvest has fallen to an estimated 4.9 million tonnes with harvest now underway – affirming the challenging seasonal conditions across the state during winter and spring.
Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA)'s Crop and Pasture Report for Spring Crop Performance outlines the health of crops and pastures across the state is quite varied with several districts in the state experiencing drought.
Despite the below average harvest, the farmgate value of the state's crop is estimated to hold up at $1.7 billion on the back of higher grain and fodder prices this season.
The 4.9 million tonne estimate grown from 3.5 million hectares is well below the long-term South Australian average of 7.9 million tonnes.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said rainfall this growing season was below average across most of the state, with significant areas drought affected.
"This year we're experiencing quite a patchy situation – some areas are experiencing very good seasons while others are experiencing very difficult seasons," said Minister Whetstone.
"A number of areas in the state are drought affected, including eastern and western Eyre Peninsula, upper North, northern Yorke Peninsula, Murray Mallee, eastern Mid North and North East pastoral.
"Most districts received very much below average rainfall in September.
"Several strong winds and some widespread frosts occurred in late September and early October.
"The widespread frosts damaged grain crops at their most vulnerable flowering to early grain fill stage. Around 10 per cent of the state's grain crop was cut for hay as a result of the frost damage.
"We are working with industry, support agencies, communities and other government authorities to manage the state's drought affected areas and importantly ensure our farmers know there is support available.
"The State Government has established our Family and Business Support Program with mentors available to support the health and wellbeing of drought-affected communities.
"Some farmers on Eastern Eyre Peninsula, Upper North, Mid North and Southern Mallee will not have enough grain to provide seed for next season's crops, but anecdotally are expected to have enough seed in storage or be able to source seed from elsewhere to meet requirements.
"There is some pasture feed on Kangaroo Island, the South East and areas of the Eyre Peninsula, but in other areas pasture feed and soil surface cover is low.
"Most cattle and sheep producers in pastoral areas have continued to reduce livestock numbers, with some totally destocking and most having reduced numbers by 40 to 80 per cent."
This year's current crop production estimate is very similar to that of 1999–2000, 2007–08 and 2008–09 seasons, which all were around 4.8 to 4.9 million tonnes.
The Government has convened the Dry Conditions Working Group with the state's major food and livestock industry organisations being members of that group. Working with government, the group is in place to plan support and assistance measures for farmers and communities.
Producers are encouraged to contact PIRSA's 24-hour hotline (1800 255 556) if they have any questions related to the current dry conditions.
The next PIRSA Crop and Pasture Report is due out in January 2019.