The big wet has passed through eastern and southern Australia with mixed outcomes. While rainfall might not have been as much, or as intense, as some forecasts were suggesting, there has still been a lot of rain across the eastern half of SA, all of Vic and all of NSW.
Small areas of crop have been physically lost from flooding, hail and wind, but it will be the incremental loss to yield and risk to quality that will determine the largest part of the overall loss from the unseasonal weather.
One estimate is that about 4 million tonnes of wheat remained unharvested in the rain affected regions. That may be an underestimate given that the wheat harvest is only in its early stages in Vic, and there have already been rain delays in SA and NSW that have slowed the pace of deliveries into on-farm and off-farm storage over the past week or so.
There is also debate about the overall size of our crop anyway, with official estimates still well above 20mt, while other private forecasters continue to suggest a crop closer to 18 to 19mt. If our crop comes in at the lower end of forecasts, with a serious level of downgrading on the crop still to be harvested, the supply of milling wheat from Australia could be quite low.
It may also mean that the amount of wheat exposed to the rainfall event is smaller than estimated if our crop is at the lower end of expectation. Basically, the size and quality profile of the Australian crop will remain an unknown for a few more weeks yet.
International markets are watching this, but are not overly concerned because of the high levels of global stocks, strong supply of reasonable protein wheat from Russia, and because of reports that Australia offered cheap wheat into Iraq last week, cutting out other major exporters.
The ongoing impact of slow export sales from the US has been to keep CBOT futures under pressure for much of last week. A new contract low was set early in the week as the market moved through a 20 US c/bu trading range from the week before. However, the market finished the week on a more positive note, up for the week, and back to levels seen as the base in prices for much of November.
With a new month, and the southern hemisphere harvest coming to a close, there may be a base formed in prices over the next few weeks, which will then set the tone for wheat prices as we move into 2018.
We will also move into a period with little news to drive the market apart from the pace of exports from the US. At this stage exports from the US, and EU, continue to be hurt by the late arrival of winter in Russia, which sees them able to continue exporting at a record pace or this time of year. Normally grain movements slow as the harsh winter conditions set in.
The market will also be watching the weather in the US to see if cold, dry conditions develop in line with the La Nina event. There are concerns that dry weather will limit crop development, and the crop could remain vulnerable to winterkill before an adequate snow cover arrives.