Sorghum crop forecast slashed as dry continues

Dry drives drop in sorghum forecast


Below average rainfall across much of Queensland’s cropping areas has seen the state's sorghum crop forecast drop dramatically.


Below average rainfall across much of Queensland’s summer cropping areas has seen ABARES slash is forecast for the state’s sorghum crop.

ABARES released its February Crop Report last week where the forecast for Queensland sorghum production were lowered by 272,000 tonnes from the December estimates to around one million tonnes. Sorghum plantings were reduced by 20 per cent to around 350,000 hectares, primarily on the dry conditions across parts of Central Queensland. 

Sorghum production forecasts for NSW were also hit by dry weather. ABARES cut its NSW sorghum production by around a third to 465,000 tonnes as dry weather limited plantings. The area planted to sorghum was substantially reduced by the poor summer rainfall which was compounded by the above average temperatures.

Australia’s 2018 sorghum crop of 1.46 million tonnes is sharply smaller than the 2.0 million tonne harvest expected in December, but still comfortably larger than last year’s drought reduced crop.

ABARES also cut its forecast for the Queensland 2017 wheat harvest by around 50,000 tonnes to 680,000 tonnes. This put last year’s Queensland wheat crop as the smallest since the 2002 harvest and sharply below the five-year average of 1.35 million tonnes.

Shrinking sorghum supplies has put upward pressure on northern grain markets over the past six weeks. Sorghum bids into the Downs are closing in on $300 delivered, having jumped by around $40 a tonne since the start of the year. Stockfeed wheat and feed barley bids have strengthened by around $20 a tonne from the start of January, as feed grain buyers step up efforts to secure more white grains as the good start to the sorghum season unravelled through the summer.

Forecast rain this week will offer late relief for sorghum crops. Central Queensland cropping regions are forecast to see 50mm to 100mm of rain during the week with 30mm to 60mm across Southern Queensland. Soaking rains this week may see more sorghum planted in Central Queensland, although most agronomists saw the planting window closes at the end of the second week in February.

Rain in Southern Queensland will also benefit late planted sorghum, but the bulk of the crop has been planted early.

It may be too late for rain to make a substantial difference to the 2018 summer crop outcomes. Farmers would welcome rain to build soil moisture for the upcoming winter crop planting.

In its latest seasonal outlook statement, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology forecast near average weather conditions for the east coast cropping regions. Although a drier than normal autumn is forecast for western and northern Queensland, average weather is forecast for central and southern Queensland.

The Bureau said the current La Nina in the tropical Pacific Ocean continues to decline. They said this weak event will have negligible impact on Australia’s weather in the autumn.

Global wheat markets continued to push higher last week as drought conditions intensify through the United States HRW wheat areas. Kansas HRW wheat futures have strengthened by eight per cent in the past four weeks with the deteriorating crop outlook.


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