oz wheat production to double

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    Australian Wheat Production May Almost Double, Forecaster Says

    By Madelene Pearson

    March 4 (Bloomberg) -- Australia, the world's sixth-largest wheat exporter, may almost double output of the grain as farmers boost plantings to a record to benefit from higher prices.

    Production may rise to 26 million metric tons in 2008-09, up from last year's drought-reduced 13.1 million tons, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics said today in a report released in Canberra.

    Higher output may slow gains in wheat prices that have more than doubled in the past year because of shrinking stockpiles. Record prices are prompting farmers to increase plantings, with output forecast to climb 7 percent by June 30, 2009, the International Grains Council said last week.

    ``The opportunities in global wheat prices, grain prices, is very attractive,'' Khan Horne, general manager of agribusiness at National Australia Bank Ltd., said by phone before the report was released. ``There is a key incentive about price, all we need is rain to kick it off.''

    Wheat futures in Chicago reached a record $13.495 on Feb. 27.

    Output of 26 million tons would be Australia's second-largest wheat crop, after the 26.1 million tons harvested in 2003-04, according to the bureau's data.

    The value of the nation's wheat exports may more than double to A$4.7 billion ($4.4 billion) for the fiscal year starting in July, the forecaster also known as Abare said. Australia may ship 15.4 million tons of wheat in fiscal 2009, up from 6.4 million tons a year earlier, it said.

    Falling Prices

    The world indicator price for wheat, U.S. hard red winter wheat free-on-board at Gulf ports, is forecast to fall around 15 percent in fiscal 2009 as global supplies increase, Abare said.

    Australia may sow a record area of 13.4 million hectares (33 million acres) of wheat and a total 22 million hectares of all grains, it said.

    Total farm exports will rise 18 percent to A$31.4 billion, the bureau said. The forecast is based on average seasonal conditions.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Madelene Pearson in Melbourne on
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