Cropping

Harvest winds up on 1.4Mt sorghum crop

Liz Wells, June 22, 2018

Sorghum harvesting on the Liverpool Plains.

THE LAST of Australia’s current sorghum crop is now being harvested in Central Queensland to close off a summer-cropping season marked by average to below-average yields in many areas.

Industry sources said the crop, which is grown in northern New South Wales and southern and Central Queensland (CQ), is expected to weigh in at 1.4 million tonnes (Mt), in line with the latest estimate from ABARES, which forecast a crop of 1.4Mt from 531,000 hectares.

CQ production is expected to contribute 150,000t to the state’s production, while the Darling Downs has produced the bulk of southern Queensland’s crop of 900,000t, and NSW has added a further 350,000.

Trade sources estimate around 400,000t of the current crop will be exported to China, and said 250,000t in total had now been shipped or was on the point of loading.

Delta Grain Marketing broker, Tom Vanzella, said some trade buying to accumulate for export was occurring in CQ, but unpriced tonnage in other regions was largely destined for the domestic market.

“I don’t think we’re getting new business with China now, because the US crop is going to start coming off at the end of July or early August,” Mr Vanzella said.

“Once China’s interest dropped at the end of last month, the sorghum price dropped, but it’s now back where it should be relative to wheat.”

Traders said despite the trade dispute which has affected China’s pricing of US sorghum imports, its market was keen to ride out bilateral uncertainty to buy US sorghum for less than it could buy Australian in the second half of 2018.

Sorghum usually trades at a $40-per-tonne discount to wheat, but the spread widened to $50-$60/t before regaining some ground based on domestic demand from the poultry sector and smaller feedlots.

Trade sources said the sorghum price delivered Darling Downs peaked for the season at $380-$390/t in mid-May before easing in response to reduced export interest from China.

The price then dropped to around $360/t, and has since regained $5-$10/t.

Range in yields

Most Queensland and NSW sorghum crops were planted into limited subsoil moisture, and received patchy and largely inadequate in-crop rains to help them fill.

Landmark Dalby agronomist, Daniel Skerman, said many of the wider district’s crops yielded 4t/ha, while some crops planted into good subsoil moisture, and lucky enough to get some storm rain as well, yielded 5-6t/ha.

“Some sorghum-on-sorghum crops that didn’t have a lot of subsoil moisture would have got down to 2-3t/ha,” Mr Skerman said.

“Given the limited rainfall we had, the crop did well.”

On the normally high-yielding Liverpool Plains, Mr Vanzella said many crops yielded 2.5t/ha.

“It was another tough season in NSW and in CQ.”

Yields were well down on the northwest plains of NSW due to heat stress and limited in-crop rain, and the bulk of NSW production came from the Liverpool Plains.

CQ yields are believed to have averaged 2.5-3.5t/ha on a reduced area caused by the late arrival of planting rains at the end of summer.

 

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