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SYDNEY, June 14 (Reuters) - Australia slightly raised its forecast for 2017/18 wheat production on Wednesday as favourable weather along the country's east coast looks set to boost output from the world's No. 4 exporter.
Australian wheat production is expected to total 24.19 million tonnes, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture, Resource Economics and Rural Sciences (ABARES) said, up nearly 1 percent from its March forecast of 23.98 million tonnes.
The uptick could provide a headwind for benchmark global prices, which hit a one-month high last week on concerns about potential production losses to U.S. spring wheat production.
Still, Australian production is returning to average levels after output soared to a record 35.13 million tonnes last season, led by bumper production from Western Australian following near perfect conditions.
Much of the increase in the 2017/18 forecast will come from the country's east coast, the bureau said, after heavy downpours between March and June aided soil moisture, boosting the prospects of fledging crops.
Strong east coast production is a potential boon for GrainCorp Ltd, Australia's largest listed bulk grain handler, amid a rush for high protein supplies.
Global prices for higher protein wheat have risen in the wake of recent adverse weather that has affected production of U.S. spring wheat.
Australia's east coast, where GrainCorp enjoys a dominant market position, is the country's only high-protein producer.
Unlike last season, heavy rains this year have arrived in a timely manner. East coast production soared last season but late rains led to a quality downgrade, reducing the exportable surplus of high quality crops.
The brighter outlook for east coast production is in contrast to conditions on the west coast, Australia's largest grain producing region.
Production from Western Australia is expected to total 8.5 million tonnes during the 2017/18 season, down 15 percent from last year and behind a five-year average.
The bureau said 2017/18 canola production will total 3.32 million tonnes, down from its March forecast of 3.69 million tonnes.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Richard Pullin