Twin cyclones boost hopes for soaking rain

Twin cyclones boost rain hopes


Agribusiness
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The twin cyclones in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the WA Pilbara offer the best chance of a major drought easing rain in months.

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Northern cyclones continued to pummel coastal residents in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the West Australian Pilbara in the past week. But Queensland and NSW farmers are hopeful they twin cyclones develop into a major rainfall system, dragging much-needed rain from the northern tropics across the parched pastoral and cropping districts.

Tropical Cyclone Trevor has forced mass evacuations from Groote Island and the Northern Territory barley region and has already started to press inland and weakened into a tropical low, while Cyclone Veronica is battering Port Headland in the Pilbara with destructive winds and localised flooding.

Queensland farmers are waiting to see if the cyclones develop into the soaking rains needed to help ease the crippling drought gripping much of the state's central and southern agricultural regions. The twin cyclones offer the best chance of a major drought easing rain in months.

Unsettled weather through southern Queensland has already delivered patchy storms but limited falls have been recorded across the cropping areas. Toowoomba received 50mm on the weekend but most of the Darling Downs was limited to 2mm to 10mm.

More rain is expected through the week, but falls are now expected to be well short of what farmers are hoping for. Computer models indicate that the Darling Downs may see 15mm to 30mm of rain through the week.

The Bureau of Meteorology has moved its ENSO outlook from El Niño watch to alert. The bureau said there was now a 70 per cent chance of an El Niño developing in the coming months, around triple the normal likelihood. Tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures have touched on El Niño thresholds for the past three weeks, while waters below the surface are also slightly warmer than average.

Queensland grain markets fell early last week when the cyclones first emerged on the weather forecast but started to firm again as the rainfall forecasts indicated soaking rains over the major cropping areas were unlikely.

It's too late for rain to benefit southern Queensland and northern NSW sorghum crops but its critical for the upcoming winter crop planting.

Sorghum prices into the Darling Downs drifted below $360 early in the week but strengthened to $365 by Thursday and Friday. Stockfeed wheat was $5 higher at $415 delivered Darling Downs markets while barley was steady at $385 to $390.

Expectations of the Queensland sorghum crop continue to decline amid the absence of rain in February and March. Some of the late planted sorghum in southern Queensland has benefited from isolated storms but most of the crop has struggled with the lack of rain. NSW sorghum estimates are also falling.

ABARES forecast Queensland sorghum production for the 2018-19 season at 924,000 tonnes down from more than one million tonnes in 2017-18. Some traders now below the Queensland sorghum crop is now closer to 800,000t with the national crop a little over 1mt.

Queensland sorghum prices have rallied by $50 a tonne relative to what values in recent weeks as traders factor in the shrinking supplies.

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