March 14, 2019 / 12:48 AM / 12 days ago

Hot weather to linger across Australia in blow to rural sector

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Hot weather will linger in Australia for at least another three months, the country’s meteorology bureau said on Thursday, piling pressure on the rural sector in one of the world’s top exporters of commodities such as wheat.

The entire country has a 70 percent chance of temperatures exceeding average levels between April 1 and June 30, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said.

That comes after the summer that just ended in the country was the hottest since national records began in 1910, and among the 10 driest.

Thursday’s forecast fuels pessimism over the outlook for wheat production in the world’s No. 4 exporter of the grain around a month out from farmers beginning to sow crops.

Offering some hope, the BOM said there was a 50 percent chance of average rains, though analysts said excessive wet weather was needed to help wheat production.

“You have to ratchet back the (forecast output) numbers, there are growers who won’t be able to plant a crop, and those that do desperately need rain,” said Andrew Woodhouse, grains analyst at Advance Trading Australasia.

Australia’s chief commodity forecaster earlier this month said wheat production would jump 38 percent in 2019/20, though it warned of a dire need for rain.

A drought-affected crop last season left some farmers struggling to stay in business.

Australia’s wheat production fell to an 11-year low during the 2018/19 season, according to the commodity forecaster.

Wheat is the country’s largest rural export, worth an estimated A$5.5 billion ($3.89 billion) last year.

($1 = 1.4122 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Joseph Radford

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