(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s wheat production is set to be slightly higher than expected this season but recent heavy rainfall on the nation’s east coast has probably led to a decline in the quality of unharvested crops.

The government marginally raised its estimates for wheat, barley and canola output for the 2023-24 harvest, which is still expected to be lower than the previous record season, according to a December report from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

Rain late last month would have delayed the harvest across central and southern New South Wales, Victoria and parts of South Australia, and likely impacted the quality of crops still in the ground, the government said. December rainfall is set to be lower, which should allow for the timely collection of grains and minimize the damage, the forecaster added.

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The global wheat market is still grappling with the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine, despite forecasts for bountiful crop production in some regions. Key buyers of Australian grain include Indonesia and China, which may require more imports after rain damaged its crop this year.

Australia increased its wheat output estimate for 2023-24 to 25.5 million tons, up from a September forecast of 25.4 million. However, production will be 37% lower than the previous bumper harvest. Planting of the grain typically starts from April, with the harvest commencing from November.

Other crop estimates for 2023-24:

  • Barley production forecast at 10.8 million tons, from 10.5 million tons estimated in September
  • Canola production forecast at 5.5 million tons, from 5.2 million tons
  • Overall winter crop forecast at 46.1 million tons, down 33% from the record high in 2022-23 and slightly below the 10-year average

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