Queensland farmers are hoping that forecast rain for this week may offer a last-ditch opportunity to germinate winter grain crops and seed late crops.
An unseasonal trough is expected to feed moist air into Queensland bringing the chance of welcome rain to Central Highlands, Maranoa, Darling Downs and extending into northern NSW. Forecasters are saying some areas could see 20 – 30mm of rain by the end of the week.
While any rain is welcome, pragmatism is already setting in in many areas where farmers have already set their sights on summer crops rather than rolling the dice on a chancy, late planted winter crop. Many agronomists are now favouring sorghum and cotton over wheat and barley. The broad consensus is the seeding window for the winter crops is over and money is best spent on the summer crops where there is still some opportunity to build additional moisture reserves before a September planting.
Traders are already talking of a Queensland and NSW 2019 wheat harvest that will be well below last year’s totals. Grain watchers are drawing parallels to the drought of 2006/07 which extended into 2007/08 when the worst drought in 100 years decimated crops and sent farming communities to crisis point.
Grain buyers are now resorting to all modes of transport to draw grain supplies to the north to fill the supply void.
Northern grain buyers are painting a gloomy outlook for the 2018 season, saying they can’t recall when the countryside looked as dry as what it currently does.
Trucks have been carting grain from as far away as the Victorian and South Australian Mallee for the past six months, as soon as the limited supplies from the depleted 2017 northern wheat and barley harvest because difficult to access.
Grain traders loaded a 2.8-kilometre, 101 wagon train from Crystal Brook in SA to haul about 6300 tonnes the 1500km journey to Moree in northern NSW before being trucked the remaining 400km to the Darling Downs. Some of the train is expected to be railed into the Tamworth and Newcastle area to supply feed grain users in those regions.
Grain is also being shipped around to Brisbane and possibly Newcastle, where its being unloaded onto trucks and distributed to the demand intensive areas of southern Queensland and northern NSW.
The current grain shortages are now expected to extend well into the 2019 calendar year. Supply chains are being reversed to streamline the massive flows of grain by ship, train and truck to maintain the northern grain needs.
Northern grain markets were steady to firmer last week but appear to have found a level at the current $400 plus values across southern Queensland. Stockfeed wheat into the Darling Downs was up $5 at $410 delivered while feed barley was steady at $410. Newcastle prices also appear to have levelled in the $405 to $410 range.