Sorghum harvest has started in the western Downs in the past week, with recent hot weather bringing crops in quickly.
Harvest kicked off in the early September planted sorghum in the Meandarra and Condamine areas in early January. Initial yields have been promising, especially considering the limited in-crop rainfall. Farmers have been reporting yields of 2.5 to 3.0 tonnes per hectare.
Later planted sorghum crops have started to show signs of moisture stress in the past couple of weeks and farmers are desperate for rain to avoid a loss in yield potential. The main Darling Downs sorghum crop that was planted in September and early October benefited from the soaking mid-December rains which has all-but assured a bumper crop. These crops are still a few weeks away from harvest.
Southern Queensland grain prices had a softer tone last week as early harvested sorghum supplies filtered into the Darling Downs and Brisbane markets. Sorghum ended the week $10 lower at $350 delivered into Darling Downs markets. Brisbane was also $10 lower at $360 delivered.
Weakness in sorghum also extended into the wheat and feed barley prices. Stockfeed wheat bids into the Darling Downs finished last week $8 lower at $455 while F1 feed barley was down $7 at $408.
Opportunities for a significant Central Queensland sorghum crop are sliding. Farmers were hoping that ex Tropical Cyclone Penny may delivery some much-needed rain in the Central Highlands last week. However, the storms struggled to penetrate inland with the heaviest falls hugging the state’s northern and central coast.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting an early demise of El Nino with cooling in the equatorial Pacific to cause neutral conditions by March or April.
Australia’s wheat export pace nearly ground to a complete halt ahead of the new crop harvest as the impacts of the drought continue to be felt. November wheat exports fell to around 300,000 tonnes in November, which was the smallest monthly export total in more than a decade.
Wheat shipments are expected to climb in November as Western Australia’s wheat harvest begins to flow to overseas markets. East Coast wheat exports are expected to remain at negligible level for the 2018-19 marketing year.
Last week ABARES forecast that Australia’s 2018-19 wheat exports would fall to a 10-year low of 10.6 million tonnes due to the drought. Nearly all these exports will come from Western Australia, were farmers were unaffected by the drought. Western Australia’s wheat crop is now expected to 10 million tonnes which has helped propel the state’s harvest grain deliveries above 16 million tonnes.
Global grain markets were broadly softer last week. United States grain markets were softer as traders struggled for direction amid the absence of regular information flow generated by the United States Department of Agriculture which has ceased with the partial shutdown. Markets were buoyed early last week on positive comments from the US and China trade talks but were sold lower late in the week amid the absence of confirmed export sales.