In Australia, planting of the main 1998 wheat and coarse grains crops is due to start in May. Early indications indicate that the aggregate winter grain area is likely to fall for the second year in succession. After two years of above-average areas sown to the traditional crops of wheat and barley, producers are expected to diversify to crops with better returns such as malting barley, oilseeds and food pulses, and to livestock reflecting the improved price outlook for livestock products. Wheat plantings are forecast to decline by about 9 percent to 9.8 million hectares. However, if normal weather conditions prevail throughout the season, the national average yield is expected to increase somewhat from the previous year, when erratic rainfall patterns affected crops in some areas, and the 1998 wheat output is tentatively forecast at 17 million tonnes. Harvest of the minor 1998 summer coarse grain crop (mostly sorghum) is due to start soon. After generally favourable growing conditions since planting, output of sorghum is forecast to increase to about 1.6 million tonnes, from about 1.2 million tonnes in the previous year. Harvesting of the bulk of 1998 paddy crop should begin in April. As a result of significantly lower water allocations in New South Wales, where virtually all the rice is grown, the area planted to rice declined by 16 percent from 1997 to about 140 000 hectares and paddy production is expected to fall by 14 percent to 1.2 million tonnes.