AUSTRALIA exported 19,199 tonnes of malting barley, 942,725t of feed barley and 78,574t of sorghum in December 2021, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The malting figure was down 68 per cent from the November total of 60,431t to reflect the rundown on old-crop stocks, while the feed figure surged 58pc from the November total to reflect new-crop availability primarily out of Western Australia and South Australia.
Sorghum exports in December fell 32pc from the November total of 116,400t, again due to a rundown in stocks ahead of the harvest which has gotten under way in recent weeks.
Flexi Grain pool manager Sam Roache said December barley exports marked a return to the big numbers seen early in the 2020-21 (Oct-Sep) marketing year.
“It was the largest export month since March 2021, and it was posted in December rather than November because of the softer finish and delayed harvest.”
The jump in feed barley exports more than compensated for the drop in malting month on month.
The reduced malting tonnage was reflecting uncertainty around barley quality after the rain-affected harvest in eastern Australia as well as dwindling old-crop stocks.
“This is not a flag on malt demand for subsequent months and we expect to see numbers recover in the January-forward period.”
On feed, Mr Roache said all the usual demand was evident in the December figures.
Saudi on 296,130t was the biggest feed market by far, followed by Japan on 160,070t and Vietnam on 71,759t, while Jordan, Qatar, Thailand and The Philippines each took 60,000-70,000t.
“Jordanian demand returned to Australia after a long hiatus, with the first of many cargoes we have seen sold in tenders shipped in December.
“This is a great measure of how competitive we have been versus Black Sea.
Thailand also returned as a volume buyer for the first time since June.
“Thailand feed has been very quiet generally, so we don’t expect barley shipments to explode.”
Mr Roache said demand from the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia in particular, as well as Japan, is expected to stay strong.
“Other demand into Asia, including The Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, will likely see declines in barley, with demand switching to more competitive feed wheat.”
Reports in the past week have stated that the Chinese Government has broadly approved imports of barley and wheat from Russia.
“In the current environment for barley, where Australia is more or less excluded for Chinese execution, this is likely a supportive environment for Australian barley.
“It reduces the influence of Australia’s largest competitor into the Middle East, and Russia will be less likely to compete hard there if China as a higher-priced market is as an option.”
“At the same time, this opens up the Chinese market to a larger volume of potential imports of barley, allowing China imports to grow and service the seemingly insatiable appetite for feed grains.
“Notably for wheat, the Russian news is bearish if anything, opening up our likely largest export market to more competition.”
On sorghum, the December figure shows another drop since the October peak of 278,813t in the 2021-22 (Apr-Mar) shipping year, and indicates supply chains have switched to more lucrative new-crop wheat exports.
“China was the only sizeable destination, which will continue for the foreseeable future, or until we see policy change there.”
Mr Roache said sorghum exports are expected to pick from March to August to reflect harvest availability.
“Elevation margins are likely better than wheat, so it will get access to stem and go out the door quickly as long as China purchasers are unrestricted.”
Table 1: Australian malting barley exports for July to December 2021. Source: ABS
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Table 2: Australian feed barley exports for July to December 2021. Source: ABS
Table 3: Australian sorghum exports for July to December 2021. Source: ABS