Feedgrain Focus: South lifts on dry north

Liz Wells, 10/07/2023

Field Applied Research managing director Nick Poole at the hyper-yielding cereals trails in Western Australia. Photo: John Blake

WHEAT and barley prices have firmed in the south but traded steady to softer in the north as consumers, traders and growers process the impact of ongoing dry conditions in north-west New South Wales, and bouncing global markets.

Going against expectations held by some, the July 1 start of the new financial year has not shaken significant volumes out of growers’ hands.

However, another week of showers across much of south-eastern Australia has lifted grower interest in selling current-crop barley held as a drought hedge by mixed farmers especially.

Today Jun 29 New crop
Barley Downs $420 $420 NQ
SFW wheat Downs $420 $425 NQ
Sorghum Downs $392 $395 NQ
Barley Melbourne $345 $330 NQ
ASW Melbourne $390 $385 NQ
SFW Melbourne $385 $380 NQ

Table 1: Indicative prices in Australian dollars per tonne.

Northern rain misses driest spots

In the week to 9am today, registrations in the north-west of NSW include: Coonamble 18mm, Moree and Walgett 12mm; Narrabri 10mm, and Wee Waa 18mm.

Amounts are ideal for crops in the ground, but will not spark a widespread planting of wheat or barley.

Priag Marketing Narrabri-based principal Kevin Schwager said wheat could be planted on the north-west plains of NSW until the end of July, and would look at planting chickpeas in August, if significant rain fell in coming weeks.

“We had 9-10mm across the district, and we were looking for 30-40mm, or 50mm out west.”

“Those larger areas out west would plant wheat until the end of July, but you need rain by middle of July to allow the country to dry out enough to get on to it.

“If those growers don’t plant wheat, they’d plant chickpeas into August; experience shows that can pay off.”

Mr Schwager said the dry conditions, and seasonal uncertainty, have made for “very little selling interest on new-crop wheat”.

“The reason is that growers are saying crops aren’t developed enough, and until we get a crop that’s well and truly tillered, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of interest in selling.”

Mr Schwager said growers have no reason to expect price falls ahead of harvest, giving them another reason to hang on to current-crop tonnage as expectations mount for the wider region’s smallest crop seen since the drought year of 2019.

“Higher-protein wheats…they will hold out and get better money for than they’ll get out of feed markets on the Downs.”

Growers have been hitting peaks in cereal markets since harvest, and Mr Schwager said growers therefore were not undersold coming into the new financial year.

“We haven’t seen a pick-up in July selling.”

In Queensland, some Central Highlands wheat and chickpea crops have had a welcome top up, with Clermont receiving 45mm, Emerald 29mm and Springsure 30mm.

Falls were equally patchy on the Downs, and some locations getting 15-20mm, and others not a drop.

Robinson Grain Toowoomba-based trader Anthony Furse said the rain has not been sufficient to prompt a run of sales.

“The 20mm around the Downs has been well received, but rain makes everyone sit on their hands, and everyone’s waiting to see where it fell and what it means.”

Meanwhile, shipped Western Australia barley free on truck from vessels arriving in Brisbane is being offered at $405-$410 free on truck, and is supplying consumers within around 200km of the port.

Grain from southern NSW arriving by road is the volume source of barley going into Downs feedlots, which Mr Schwager said has provided competition for the boat barley.

“To service the Downs, it could come out of Brisbane, or from down south,” Mr Schwager said.

Southern conditions shine

While some parts of southern and central NSW, Victoria and South Australia are excessively wet, crops are generally in good stead and looking at average or better yields, especially if enough urea is available to top dress ahead of further rain fronts.

Barley in the up-country market has been trading at around $330/t delivered consumer from the Goulburn Valley to the Riverina, but in modest amounts.

Trade sources have reported growers seem more willing to engage with the idea of selling, now that crops are well established, and most have done some top dressing to boost yield potential, and protein prospects too on wheat.

However, no flood of grain is being seen from the grower now that the new financial year has arrived, but traders and brokers do report there is more interest in selling what’s on farm or warehoused.

Key Agri Wagga Wagga-based broker Matt Noonan said domestic consumers appear to be focused on SFW and ASW wheat rather than barley, as prompt exports centre on canola and higher-protein wheats.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of barley use in the south,” Mr Noonan said.

He said the southern market’s season seemed reasonably well set up, and urea availability as well as rain were expected to have a bearing on yields, and the protein profile of wheat from the Riverina to the Victorian Wimmera.

“Clients have dragged urea from every port zone, and while we’ve got boats coming in, it’s spoken for.”

It means growers may well not be able to chase yield with urea if the rain keeps coming.

One consumer in the southern market said growers have been hitting market highs of recent weeks with current-crop barley.

“We’re finding barley pretty easily, but not wheat,” the trader said.

“I’d say the grower might be 70-80 percent sold on wheat, but is holding more canola, and is maybe two-thirds on barley.

“Barley is what they have on farm as drought hedge, and they might be letting some of that go now.”



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