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West Australian drought boosts wheat crop protein level, narrows APW-ASW spread

Singapore — Just 12% of the 3.8 million mt of wheat harvested to date this season in Western Australia is Australian Standard White or ASW, down sharply from 39% of the total harvest last year, traders said Tuesday.

Prolonged dryness in the state has resulted in a higher protein crop, reducing the availability of lower grade wheat, market sources said.

As the harvest that began in November progresses beyond the halfway stage, the protein level of ASW is averaging 9%-9.1% at ports in Western Australia, compared with 8.8% at the same time a year earlier, traders said.

"This year there may be a lot of ASW that is blended with AH2 [to get] APW1. Growers have until January 15, I think, to optimize the crop," a trader in Australia said.

"The optimization will depend on where spreads [between grades] are trading to one another," another trader said.

The spread between S&P Global Platts assessed Australian Premium White or APW wheat and ASW has narrowed to $2.50/mt at the start of December from $6/mt at the start of October.

Hot and dry weather during the crop's development has slashed Australia's overall wheat production forecast by 8% year on year to 15.9 million mt for the current season, which runs November-October, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics said in its latest report.

Wheat production in Western Australia, the country's largest exporting region, is forecast to fall by 41% over the same period to 6 million mt, reflecting a 37% fall in the average yield.

-- Takmila Shahid, takmila.shahid@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com