SYDNEY, June 19 (Reuters) - Australia on Tuesday raised its forecast for beef exports in 2018/19 by more than 4 percent after dry weather wilted pastures in the country's east, forcing farmers to slaughter cows in near record volumes.
Australia's chief commodity forecaster said beef exports during the 2018/19 season would total 1.15 million tonnes, up from the 1.11 million tonnes it estimated in March.
Farmers in key producing regions around Australia's east coast have been forced to increase slaughtering to a two-year high as scorching weather dries fields, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture, Resource Economics and Rural Sciences (ABARES) said.
The eastern state of Queensland in May received less than 20 percent of the rain it typically gets during the month, data from the country's Bureau of Meteorology shows.
Much of the increased exports will go to Japan and China, ABARES said, countries where Australia enjoys favourable access following the completion of trade agreements in recent years. Australian exporters such as Cargill had been forced to idle processing plants in 2016 as farmers sought to rebuild herds after the end of the strongest El Nino in nearly 20 years in 2014.
Meanwhile, ABARES left its forecast for milk production in 2018/19 unchanged at 9.37 billion litres and its estimate for sugar output steady at 4.83 million tonnes.
Reporting by Colin Packham Editing by Joseph Radford