AS FORECASTERS issue their final outlooks prior to harvest for winter crop production there are many tipping a markedly above average year for winter crop production.
Spurred on by what many expect will be a near record year for NSW and Victorian croppers, this year's total harvest is expected to be easily the biggest since the nation's largest crop production season on record, 2016-17.
And while the relatively poorer seasons in Queensland and Western Australia mean no analysts are tipping an overall record, some, such as Ikon Commodities, are forecasting it may yet get very close.
At the very least it is probable, without a late season production downturn, it will be in the top three years on record, behind 2016-17 and 2011-12.
Ikon currently is one of the more bullish forecasters, with total production of four major crops, wheat, barley, canola and chickpeas, tipped at 45 million tonnes and wheat production flagged at 30m tonnes.
"A lot depends on what happens in NSW," said Ikon chief executive Ole Houe.
"There is probably the most room for further upside in NSW, and while we've already got a pretty high number it could go up some more yet," Mr Houe said.
He said heavy rain late last week had shored up Victorian and South Australian prospects but had not made a big impression in terms of adding tonnes to the balance sheet.
"We already had the Victorian number quite high and in South Australia the rain we see as probably more retaining yield rather than creating it."
In the west, he said there was still a large amount of variation.
"Even though it is close to harvest it would not surprise to see movement anywhere from 8.2m tonnes of wheat to 8.6m tonnes.
"There still could be changes, but we can say we don't see it as bad as it has been made out in some quarters."
James Maxwell, Australian Crop Forecasters analyst, said his organisation had an all-crop figure of 45.5m tonnes, although includes more commodities than the Ikon figure, with wheat at around 28m tonnes.
He said the number could still move around according to the finish to the season, however he said NSW, currently on track for 10.3m tonnes of wheat, and Victoria, 4.2m tonnes, could both challenge their all-time records.
"It has been a really fantastic season in both states, with northern NSW not quite as good, but overall, much of NSW would still benefit from any rain over the next couple of weeks."
He said there was still room for further upside in NSW, Victoria and SA with more October rain, with later regions still able to turn rain into added yield, but said production estimates were coming in tighter as the finish line draw near.
"We're getting a clearer picture of what is happening."
In the west, Mr Maxwell is forecasting wheat production just over 8m tonnes.
"If you only looked at social media it might look on the high side but we believe most crops south of the line east from Perth are in reasonable condition.
"There is no doubt some poorer crops in the northern cropping zones but overall it is far from a wipeout, although there is still further risk of a haircut in terms of production if the rest of the season falls away for those with yield potential."
In Queensland, Brendan Taylor, AgForce president said the only consistent feature of the season leading into harvest in southern Queensland was its inconsistency.
"We've got barley crops going 4 or 5 tonnes to the hectare just kilometres away from those going just a tonne (to the hectare)," Mr Taylor said.
He said the central Queensland harvest was nearly wound up and had not been strong.
"They are in the middle of quite a bad dry spell up there and more rain like they saw over the weekend would be welcome."
In southern Queensland he said it was hard to get a clear picture of the crop, although he said the earlier sown crops were nearly always better than the later sown paddocks.
Analysts generally have the Queensland wheat crop at around 1m tonnes, well up on last year but still below the 10-year average.
StoneX has one of the lower production estimates out with 28.7m tonnes for wheat and 10.7m tonnes for barley, both below the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) September forecast.
Their canola forecast was just 3.1m tonnes, well down on ACF, 3.6m tonnes and Ikon, a whopping 4m tonnes.