Drought conditions across southern Queensland and northern New South Wales may see wheat and barley shipped from South Australia in the coming months to ease grain shortages.
Some traders are already speculating that grain shipments could be booked in the coming weeks as the full extent of the drought on the southern Queensland winter grain crop becomes more apparent.
High Darling Downs grain prices have seen wheat and barley trucked from as far south as West Wyalong in southern New South Wales for the past eight weeks. But the focus is now turning to bulk shipments by port. Traders are saying the sustained high prices are likely to see bulk shipments of wheat and possibly barley shipped from South Australia into Brisbane, on top of the ongoing truck movements.
Recent declines in southern grain prices have improved the economics of shipping wheat up from South Australia or Victoria into Brisbane, traders are saying.
Bulk grain shipments from the southern states into Brisbane are not completely foreign. Several ships carrying wheat and barley were offloaded into Brisbane in 2014 after drought savaged the northern grain supplies.
Farmers hoping for late saving rains to help savage some yield from wheat and barley crops have been left disappointed. Hot, windy weather on the weekend sapped remaining moisture from the already parched crops, pushing the 2017 grain harvest closer to ‘worst case’ scenario. Temperatures are forecast to climb into the low 30’s early this week and spend the remainder of the week in the high 20’s.
Minimal rainfall fell across Queensland and northern New South Wales in August, capping off an extremely dry winter with the rainfall deficit from normal ranging from 50-80mm for the three months. But it also followed an extremely hot and dry summer in the north which sapped paddocks of any residual moisture from last year. The only significant rainfall event in the past 10 months in the north was the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Debbie, but this hasn’t been enough to sustain winter grain crops.
Southern Queensland grain prices strengthened last week following as frosty overnight temperatures adding yet another challenge for grain producers. Temperatures plummeted to levels where crops can be vulnerable last week.
Stock feed wheat jumped by $20 a tonne to $320 delivered into the Darling Downs as traders reacted to the news of possible frost damage. Feed barley gained $8 to $295 delivered into Downs markets.
New crop sorghum values also firmed in the past week following the strength in wheat and feed barley to $270 delivered Darling Downs. Farmers will be looking for soaking rains in the coming weeks as the planting window approaches before planting sorghum.
Chickpea prices firmed last week as exporters raised their buying ideas for new crop supplies.
United States wheat futures posted its first weekly gain since mid-July, aided by robust export demand and a softer currency. Massive disruptions to U.S. grain logistics from Hurricane Harvey was also supportive.
A smaller Canadian crop was also mildly supportive global wheat markets. Statistics Canada pegged the Canadian wheat crop at 25.5 million tonnes, which was below market estimates. They forecast Canadian wheat production at 3.9 million tonnes, sharply below last year’s harvest of 7.8 million tonnes.