Queensland grain farmers have recorded the best general rain since March, but it comes too late to save winter cereal crops.
The dry weather pattern that dominated eastern Australia through the winter finally broke in early October, as a trough pulled moisture from the north across much of Queensland and NSW.
The south-western cropping areas of southern Queensland recorded the best of the rain with Roma, St George and the western areas of Goondiwindi recording general falls of more than 50mm. Rainfall amounts were generally lighter through the heart of the Darling Downs sorghum growing country. Miles, Dalby and Oakey received 30mm to 40mm over the past week in a series of light showers but missed out on the heavier storms seen in the south west.
The rain was too late for struggling winter cereal crops, but farmers will look to plant sorghum when they have enough moisture. The wetter pattern looks like it will continue into the middle of October according to the latest Bureau forecasts.
Farmers are saying they need 75mm or more of rain to be comfortable about planting sorghum. Months of dry weather and heat has left paddocks void of moisture and it will take a soaking to wet soils sufficiently to justify planting.
Grain prices tumbled as soon as forecasters predicted widespread rain across the state’s major sorghum production areas. Stockfeed wheat bids have fallen by $20 to $330 into the Darling Downs markets from the recent highs as buyers pared back purchasing ideas. Feed barley price have declined by $15 to $325 delivered Downs markets.
New season sorghum bids have dropped $30 to $273 Downs from the highs just over $300 Downs markets in mid-September.
But the dry winter has already irreversibly shaped the season most eastern Australian farmers. The driest September on record for the Murray-Darling Basin resulted slashed winter grain production estimates and forced livestock producers to offload cattle.
The Bureau of Meteorology said it was the driest September on record for New South Wales and it was the tenth-driest on record for Queensland. The impact of the dry weather was exacerbated by the hotter than normal temperatures, the Bureau said.
Many traders believe that Australia’s wheat crop will be less than 20 million tonnes making it the smallest in a decade.
Cattle slaughter rates through Queensland and New South Wales are rising as farmers are forced to offload livestock as the drought bites. After a slow start to the year, weekly cattle numbers have surged since June. The increase in cattle slaughter numbers coincides with the sharp decline in cattle prices, as farmers have been forces to quit livestock with the lack of pasture.
Australian grain exports are starting to slow as global buyers look for cheaper supplies. The latest monthly trade data showed that Australia exported 1.57 million tonnes of wheat in August down from 1.85 million in July and 2.3 million in June. Despite the slowdown in the shipping pace, Australia is on track to ship upwards of 22.5 million tonnes of wheat for the 2016/17 marketing year which would make it one of the biggest ever export years.
Barley exports continued the strong pace seen earlier in the season, the data showed. A further 600,000 tonnes of barley was shipped in August, lifting the marketing year exports to about 9 million tonnes.