Sorghum values continued to strengthen last week as crops suffer with the hot, dry start to 2019 takes its toll on crops and production estimates slide.
January rain was always going to be critical for the size of the Queensland sorghum crop. Central Queensland farmers needed soaking rains to guarantee a sorghum planting while the Darling Downs needed finishing rains to avoid yield declines.
But the January rains haven’t been forthcoming. Despite an abundance of January rain on the north Queensland and central Queensland coast, precious little of the precipitation has pushed inland into the cropping areas.
The Central Highlands has only seen a patch 10 to 20mm of rain in the first three weeks of January, while most of the Downs has been completely dry. Temperatures have been well above normal with many locations enduring day time maximums in the high 30s and low 40s for most of the month.
It seems like the hot, dry weather is likely to continue according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s latest seasonal outlook. The February to April 2019 climate outlook, issued January 17, indicates a drier than median three months for most of Australia’s eastern mainland, including Queensland.
Prospects of a reasonable CQ sorghum harvest are unravelling as farmers run out of time to plant, and plans turn to alternative crops. Further south, expectations of bumper crops in the Darling Downs are now being scaled back amid the lack of January rain and the blistering temperatures.
Traders were talking up the chances of a 2 million tonne plus Australian sorghum crop in mid-December, but projections are back to 1.8mt and still sliding. Chances for an average 350,000 tonne sorghum crop in Central Queensland look remote with the latest weather forecasts offering little rain in late January.
The NSW sorghum crop is also back-peddling with the final crop size now expected to be well below average. Large areas have gone unplanted as farmers were not prepared to gamble on seeding with the parched soils and patchy rains. Crop conditions in the areas that have been planted are variable.
Sorghum conditions in southern Queensland are still good, but the hot, dry start to January is taking some of the gloss away from earlier ideas of bumper yields. Good October and December rain has guaranteed a good sorghum crop across the Darling Downs, but crops have suffered from the oppressive heat over the past couple of weeks.
Sorghum prices strengthened by $10 to $360 delivered into the Darling Downs, as farmer selling dries up and traders become more cautious about the chances of the earlier expected bumper yields. Downs sorghum prices have now jumped by close to $20 a tonne in the past four weeks.
Wheat and barley markets drifted lower in line with a softening in the southern markets, ignoring the firmer tone in from sorghum. Stock feed wheat into the Downs fell by $5 to $450 delivered while feed barley lost $7 to $401.