The United States was not the only country expected to benefit from Russia’s ban on grain exports. Prospects for a large Australian wheat crop were excellent, and that nation expected a sharp rise in its wheat exports in the 2010-11 marketing year.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics last week forecast 2010-11 Australian wheat production at 25.1 million tonnes, up 16% from 21.7 million tonnes in 2009-10. It would be the largest Australian crop since 25.2 million tonnes in 2005-06. The recent five-year average Australian wheat outturn was 18.5 million tonnes. ABARE said above-average rainfall across eastern Australia in August and early September enabled “strong crop growth and provided a basis for a bumper winter crop.”

At 25.1 million tonnes, the new ABARE wheat production forecast compared with the current U.S. Department of Agriculture’s September projection for that country at 23 million tonnes.

Wheat production in Australia is highly variable because of recurrent droughts. Production slumped from a recent high of 25.2 million tonnes in 2005-06 to 10.8 million tonnes in the next year. In three of the past 10 years, Australian wheat production was below 14 million tonnes. In two of the past 10 years, production dropped below 11 million tonnes. Australia harvested its record-large crop in 2003-04 at 26.1 million tonnes following the disastrous drought year 2002-03, when wheat production plunged to a recent low of 10.1 million tonnes.

ABARE projected Australian wheat exports in 2010-11 at 18.4 million tonnes, up 21% from 15.2 million tonnes in 2009-10. It would be the largest Australian wheat outgo since 19.2 million tonnes in 1996-97. The ABARE forecast compared with the U.S.D.A.’s September forecast for 2010-11 Australian wheat exports at 16 million tonnes.

The recent low for Australian wheat exports was set during the drought year 2007-08, when that country’s wheat outgo was only 7.4 million tonnes. In that same year, U.S. wheat exports surged to 34.4 million tonnes as world buyers turned to the United States for supply despite record prices because of crop shortfalls in Australia and other exporting nations.