Queensland grain prices have eased in the past week as winter crop planting commences following patchy rains across Queensland and New South Wales in late March.
Darling Downs old crop and new crop grain prices softened by a few dollars last week because of the rain. Stockfeed wheat delivered to the Darling Downs finished the week $5 lower at $405 while feed barley lost $4 to $382.
Sorghum values were steady at $346 delivered into Darling Downs markets, as debate continues over the extent of the yield losses after the arid summer.
However, price declines were limited by the limited amount of rain and its patchiness. While Downs prices fell by about $5 last week, the old crop and new crop prices are still holding around $90 above West Australian port prices. This suggests buyers still believe that Queensland supplies will remain scarce well into 2020, despite the recent rain event.
Shipping stem reports show that Queensland grain users remain heavily reliant on interstate grain to meet their needs. Traders are reporting that 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes of grain is being shipped from WA, and to a lesser extent SA, each month and discharged in Brisbane and then trucked to grain consumers.
Wheat was the preferred grain type when the grain transhipments started last year. More recently, buyers are opting for more feed barley instead of wheat because of the cheaper prices.
Traders are saying the massive transhipment program will continue until, at least, the local harvest kicks off late in the year, and even longer if the dry weather continues.
Central and southern Queensland enjoyed the best of the recent rain, but how much winter crop will be planted on it remains unclear. Areas that received 125mm to more than 150mm, including Miles in the western Downs and Clermont in the Central Highlands, will have enough moisture to plant on.
But the heaviest falls were the exception with most parts recording less than 100mm. Farmers in the areas that received less than 75mm, which included much of the Darling Downs and south western Queensland area, say they will start planting but would like to see follow-up falls to seed all their intended area.
Farmers were quick to start planting oats and barley on the rain, but most will wait for a few more weeks before planting wheat.
NSW grain prices also eased last week after the patchy rain in late March. Farmers in central and southern NSW have started planting oats, canola, barley and early wheat. However, farmers need further significant falls to trigger a general start to planting.
Australia's grain exports remain dominated by shipments from WA. Monthly export statistics released last week showed that Australia exported 835,000 tonnes of wheat in February, which was close to unchanged from January. More than 90 per cent of wheat exports where shipped from WA.
As expected, Queensland grain exports have virtually stopped with the drought, except for small niche market. Export data shows less than 40,000t of wheat has been shipped from Queensland since October 2018. This is down from 95,000 tonnes in the same period 12 months earlier and more than 500,000t in the 2016/17 season.