THERE has been a further boost to crop prospects through southern and western Australia after solid rainfall again last week.
Northern cropping zone and Central Queensland
It remained dry through the northern cropping zone where most growers outside Central Queensland are resigned to either not planting or a markedly below average crop.
However, the southern and western rain is not of no use to agriculture in the north, shoring up the prospect of the crop in those areas which will be critical to livestock producers, in particular in northern NSW and southern Queensland, that are big users of grain. It also lowers the likelihood of the need for further controversial wheat imports from overseas. In the south there were widespread falls of 20-40mm over much of Victoria and South Australia, grading lower through the Mallee regions.
Riverina and Victoria
Falls of 10-20mm fell over the Riverina, which was more than was expected prior to the rain, but still not enough to truly consolidate the crop. Brad Knight, GeoCommodities managing director, said farmers through much of Victoria could not be happier with the season thus far. “There has been solid rain but there has also been a bit of time between showers which has meant they could get on the paddock for the work there whether it be spraying or spreading urea.” Mr Knight said some patches of the Western District and the south-eastern Wimmera, where rainfall has been markedly higher than the rest of the state, was getting close to too wet but added this was not likely to represent too much in terms of overall state production. He said the rain was a boost in the Riverina, which is currently the focus of the grain trade. “The Riverina really is the lynchpin in regards to where grain moves across the east coast. “The crop there is OK at present, but a bit shaky. “If things pick up the Riverina will supply areas further to the north, but if it gets dry then it might be a net importer of grain.”
In the west, Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) Western Grain Growers chairman Gary McGill said things had turned around in the past month. “Like last year, we waited a while but when the break came it was very good for most areas. He said another front last week had followed the early June break. “The only places that remain dry are around Esperance and in the south-eastern wheat belt and you would expect at least the Esperance area, which is a higher rainfall zone, to get some rain at some stage.” Mr McGill said the break was around a fortnight later than last year, but crops were in good condition.
“You would be foolish to predict another year like last year, which was a bumper, but things are set up well.” Nick Carracher, chief executive at Lachstock Consulting, said the relocation market, with frequent transcontinental movements of grain, was likely to continue for some time. “We just need to import grain to the north and that is not going to change for some time.” Mr Carracher said he expected there would be ample supplies to service the northern grain market. “Conditions in the south are well ahead of last year and Western Australia also looks good. “The weekend rain has also really helped southern NSW even though they didn’t get as much as other parts of south-eastern Australia.” He thought cattle lot feeders would continue to buy grain so long as the cattle were available to buy.
“There has been a great margin in feeding in spite of the high grain prices, and so long as the restocking cattle available at the right price you’d expect that would continue, although the prolonged dry might impact the numbers available at some stage.” Mr Carracher said he expected WA grain to continue to be a backstop for end users if they could not source cheaper grain with a lower freight bill. “At present WA barley is price competitive into the Darling Downs and that will be the case, on and off, throughout the year you would imagine.” WA grain is definitely going to be there as a source of liquidity in terms of grain supplies if the buyers want it.”
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