NSW, Qld farmers sweat on winter rainfall

Matt Coughlan

Winter crops across Australia are crying out for rain after a dry autumn, with New South Wales and Queensland farmers feeling the pinch.

The federal government's agriculture forecaster released its latest crop report on Wednesday, which shows autumn rainfall was average to extremely low in the sunshine state during autumn.

In northern NSW falls were well below average, with severe rain deficiencies in central and southern areas of the state, while Western Australia has experienced similar conditions.

Low rainfall across Australia has hurt soil moisture, increasing farmers' focus on the skies during the coldest part of the year.

"Sufficient and timely winter rainfall will be critically important for crop development," the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences report says.

Winter rainfall is predicted to be average in WA, but worse across most other cropping regions.

Area planted of barley is tipped to rise by 10 per cent, while canola is expected to fall by the same amount.

The amount of chickpeas in the ground is set to fall dramatically, with estimates of a 53 per cent fall in the area planted.

A switch to higher-yielding crops, along with strong prices for cereal grains, is partly behind the switch away from the pulse which makes hummus.