• By The Financial District


After a few years of drought and bad harvests, Australian farmers are now busy working on their combine harvesters race up and down wheat fields in the town of Moree, New South Wales, Jonathan Barrett reported for Reuters.

Many of the areas worst hit by the three-year drought in the country’s east, including Moree, are now leading an agricultural recovery that is tipped to produce Australia’s third-biggest wheat crop in 30 years. “They only did a couple of hours really, the last couple of years, a little bit of grain that we found,” Ben Ledingham said of the combine harvesters. “It was quite painful seeing things parked in sheds and not getting used. At least it is all running now.”

The golden harvest also coincides with rising concerns over dry conditions in the Black Sea growing region - Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan - which has put a rocket under international wheat prices in recent weeks, pushing prices to a six-year high of above $6.30 a bushel. The bumper wheat season is expected to produce 29 million tons across the continent, up 90% from last season, according to government forecasts.

That could hardly come at a better time for Australia. Like most economies, Australia has been pushed deep into fiscal deficit and its jobs market roiled by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet in the eastern wheatbelt, the agricultural sector is looking for workers. “The big issue is about finding skilled staff - if someone has a rough idea what they are doing, they are in demand. Out here, you wouldn’t know there’s a pandemic,” said Tracy Blackburn, who helps run a family agricultural operation in central New South Wales. Australian wheat exports are forecast to almost double with grain to go to markets like Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Philippines, Korea and China. Money generated from good crops has brought new life to Australia’s rural centers, many of which suffered severe water shortages until heavy rains broke the drought early this year.