Warm, dry weather has allowed a rapid start to grain harvesting in Western Australia.
Bulk handling company CBH has taken more than 1.3 million tonnes of grain deliveries into its network in the first week of November.
Favourable growing conditions, particularly in the northern growing areas, have resulted in some amazing yields.
Farmers are reporting wheat and barley yields exceeding five tonnes a hectare in some areas, with some canola crops topping 2.5 tonnes.
However, harvest quality in the west has been mixed. Most of the wheat has been making APW and ASW with a splattering of hard and general-purpose wheat. Malting barley percentages have been slightly below average, with more than 80 per cent coming in as feed quality.
Feed barley prices in Western Australia have tumbled by $35 to $315 through late October and early November due the increased supply. Traders were reporting limited buying interest from overseas buyers but demand for malting barley was emerging.
Traders are speculating that Western Australia’s 2018 grain harvest could top the record harvest of 16.7 million tonnes set in 2016/17.
Bumper crops in the west pose a stark contrast to the disappointing east coast harvest.
Queensland’s barley harvest is already winding down and wheat will be finished by the end of November. GrainCorp reported Queensland grain deliveries of around 50,000 tonnes in early November. This is less than 10 pc of the grain deliveries at the same time last year.
Grain harvest is also underway in NSW and Victoria, where the pattern of poor yields is being replicated. GrainCorp said the small grain deliveries were reflective of the poor season.
Rain in October has allowed Darling Downs and northern NSW farmers to commence sorghum planting, but more will be needed to ensure all the intended area is seeded. Farmers are keen to plant a big sorghum crop to take advantage of the strong demand for feed grain. Darling Downs sorghum values tumbled from $440 in September to $350 in October on the back of expectations of two million tonnes nationally. Prices have since recovered to around $375 a tonne.
Slowing grain output has caused Australia’s 2017/18 wheat exports to fall to decade lows. Exports fell to 13.8 million tonnes this year, down from 22.6 million tonnes for 2016/17. Indonesia was Australia’s largest wheat market, taking 2.45 million tonnes, but this was lower than the previous year’s 5.3 million tonnes.
Drought has eroded Australia’s role as a major wheat exporting country and this pattern will continue into 2018/19.
East coast grain exports are expected to fall to negligible levels in the next 12 months. As much as three million tonnes of wheat and barley is expected to be shipped from Western Australia and South Australia to cover domestic needs.