CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics (ABARES) on June 10 forecast Australia’s 2015-16 wheat crop at 23,598,000 tonnes, down 68,000 tonnes from the previous year and compared with 25,303,000 tonnes in 2013-14. ABARES forecast a harvested area for wheat in the current year at 13,793,000 hectares, down 17,000 hectares from 13,810 hectares in 2014-15.

ABARES indicated the 2015-16 winter crop season has had a generally favorable start across much of Australia because of average or above-average autumn rainfall in many regions.

“Autumn rainfall has generally increased soil moisture levels and improved conditions for the planting of winter crops,” said Karen Schneider, executive director of ABARES.

At the same time, ABARES cautioned while the season opening was favorable, El Niño poses a risk to its forecasts for wheat and other winter crops.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s latest three-month rainfall outlook forecast drier-than-average winter conditions for much of New South Wales and southern Queensland and above-average rainfall across Western Australian cropping regions. It also forecast around average rainfall in South Australia and Victoria.

But the Bureau of Meteorology also indicated the El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean has continued to strengthen, which increases the likelihood that spring rainfall in eastern Australia will be below average.

Ms. Schneider said El Niño often is associated with reduced rainfall in eastern Australia but typically has less of an impact on rainfall in Western Australia.

“The impact of El Niño on winter crop production is difficult to predict because the timing of the rainfall is also significant,” Ms. Schneider said.