AUSTRALIA exported 32,729 tonnes of malting barley, 514,815t of feed barley and 252,729t of sorghum in September, according to the latest export data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The malting figure is down 52pc from the August total, with Ecuador and Peru both destination for 13,000t cargoes accounting for most of the volume.
The feed tonnage was down 12pc on the month, with Saudi Arabia on 131,557t, Kuwait on 90,676t and Qatar with 55,125t the biggest customers.
September’s sorghum exports surged 91pc from the August total to reflect more volume sales — 179,803t, or 71pc of the total — to China, plus a cargo each to Japan and Kenya.
Flexi Grain pool manager Sam Roache said barley surprised a little this month, with higher export volumes versus earlier expectations in the back end of the program.
“This continuation of program is a pointer that crops were slightly bigger than estimates, especially in New South Wales,” Mr Roache said.
Demand continues to the usual Middle Eastern and Asian demand points, aside from Thailand.
“That’s where we have seen a significant drop-off in imports due to timing of the local crop harvest.”
With stock availability waning across Australia, Mr Roache said barley volume is expected to drop off a little in October and November when new-crop feed barley starts to ship in late November and early December.
Global markets buoyant
Barley markets remain strong.
“There’s very good demand due to the big China program, along with a significant uptick in Turkish demand, and a real lack of competition from the Black Sea and Europe.”
“Australian feed barley is very well priced into the export market and will suffer no shortage of demand.”
While ABARES has the national crop from the current harvest pencilled in at 12.5 million tonnes (Mt), industry estimates are mostly higher.
This is based on bumper late season conditions in parts of NSW, Western Australia and Queensland, and Flexi Grain is calling the crop at more than 14Mt.
Mr Roache said barley faces the same headwinds as wheat on local pricing, with the production and export demand far exceeding elevation and shipping capacity, leading to high export margins.
“We do not expect this situation to change anytime soon.”
Malting volumes dropped month on month, with availability limited at the end of the season.
“We continue to see the South American business underpinning the demand profile, and while we expect a drop in October-November due to limited availability of stocks, we should see the South and Central American malt program continue solidly once new-crop is available.”
“Rumoured new-crop malting business to Canada and Europe, our usual export competitors, has seen malt spreads pick up in the past three weeks, with local maltsters trying to cover business prior to the grower selling period as the malt hits the bins.”
“On malting, the export capacity and margin situation matches that of feed, with even larger export and elevation margins able to be attracted.”
Malt is also in demand from regular export markets, mostly in Asia, and others, with Boortmalt WA about to load its latest cargo bound for Brazil.
Sorghum in demand
Sorghum saw an uptick in volume, mainly on China’s insatiable appetite for it, and the return of what was once Australia’s biggest sorghum market, Japan.
Kenya, where sorghum is used in the staple uji porridge, has also been a customer this year.
“We are close to our expected export number being completed, so expect volumes to drop in October-November, and come almost to a stop once the export program switches to canola, wheat and barley.”
“If the exports continue to perform above expectation, it is a pointer that the sorghum crop could have been slightly larger than the market’s early expectation.”
“Sorghum is pretty simple: China will buy it until there is nothing much left around the world.
“Only a policy shift will stop that flow coming from Australia in the shorter term.”
Table 1: Australian malting barley exports in July, August and September 2021. Source: ABS
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Table 2: Australian feed barley exports in July, August and September 2021. Source: ABS
Table 3: Australian sorghum exports in July, August and September 2021. Source: ABS
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