Queensland farmers have already started to adopt a ‘batten down the hatches’ approach to farm life as the unviability of the poor season bites and they wait for rain for summer crops. The die is already cast on the Queensland winter crop harvest which is set to be one of the smallest winter crops in recent memory after poor winter rains.
Chickpeas have performed reasonably well as the deep roots have been able to tap into the soil moisture from the heavy rains February and March. A lack of in-crop rainfall has meant that cereal crops have been unable to sink roots down into the subsoil moisture that’s now close to a metre below the surface.
Farmers in the isolated areas where in crop storms have provided enough moisture to keep the cereal crops going are now contemplating cutting them for hay rather than hoping for another rain that’s needed to ensure they will be harvested.
Darling Downs hay prices have soared by $200 a tonne in the past 10 weeks to around $550 as fodder supplies run out. There are reports of farmers who have already opted to cut for hay rather than chance finishing rains.
Southern hay supplies have become scarce in recent weeks which has some Victorian dairy farmers feeling the pinch after a large volume of the state’s hay and fodder reserves have been trucked north to NSW and Queensland. Victorian dairy farmers are calling it a green drought. The hills are green from the winter showers but there is not enough high in the pasture to feed cows.
Southern Queensland grain prices were steady last week. Darling Downs stockfeed wheat was unchanged at $445 delivered and F1 feed barley at $430. Brisbane grain prices were also steady.
In a sign of the severity of the 2018 drought, WA grain prices are now the new barometer for southern Queensland prices. Feed grain users in the Darlings Downs can’t access the imported grains because of the quarantine threat they pose so the threat of grain imports from the United States and Europe is no longer putting a ceiling on prices. Now, southern Queensland feed grain users and Brisbane flour millers are being forced to divert wheat and barley from WA and SA away from export markets to secure grain supplies.
Falling US futures markets saw old crop prices in WA fall by $8 to $350 free instore Kwinana while F1 feed barley was unchanged at $330.
Australia exported 1.35 million tonnes of wheat in July which is close to unchanged on June. WA and SA accounted for around 90pc of the July wheat exports.
There were 115,000 tonnes of sorghum exported from Queensland in July. This included 55,000t from Brisbane and 60,000t from Central Queensland ports. Total Australian sorghum exports for May, June and July are now above 360,000t.
Australian government forecaster ABARES will release its September Crop report later this week where it is expected to slash production estimates for Queensland and NSW winter crops as one of the worst droughts in living memory continues to intensify.