Australia in midst of monster shipment program

Liz Wells, February 8, 2021

Crops grown on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula have fed into a massive 2020-21 export program. Photo: FREE Eyre

AUSTRALIA’S grain-terminal operators are in the midst of what could be their biggest ever annual grain export program.

Bolstered by extra capacity coming from mobile shiploaders and new operators, it has allowed major terminal operators to concentrate on loading cargoes of 50,000 tonnes or more of barley, canola and wheat.

However, the panamaxes are not just for the major terminal operators; last month Riordan Grain Services used a mobile shiploader in Victoria to fill the holds of a 50,000t cargo bound for Saudi Arabia for a counterparty.

In a two-port load, Cargill’s new set-up at Port Adelaide’s Inner Harbor also loaded barley last month which is now on its way to Saudi.

Role for minors

A 20,500-tonne cargo of Western Australian barley malted in Perth is due to berth in Brazil on the weekend.

The cargo loaded at Bunge’s Bunbury terminal last month, and is believed to have been sold to the Agraria co-operative, Brazil’s biggest maltster.

Grain Central understands CBH’s Kwinana terminal normally exports barley which has been malted at Boortmalt’s Forrestfield plant, less than 25 kilometres away, and with a direct rail link.

However, the road-only Bunbury port, 170km south of Forrestfield, was the point of export for this latest cargo, which Grain Central understands illustrates CBH Kwinana being at capacity.

Its monthly shipping capacity is 600,000t, and CBH’s 2020-21 latest capacity report shows 672,232t was allocated for January.

Saudi barley booming

Shipping stems indicate barley bound for Saudi is the single biggest market for Australian exporters in January-February, and value-adding by maltsters for offshore customers further indicates competitive pricing onshore.

“It is a nice indication of Australian barley pricing into global demand and helping to offset the absence of Chinese buying interest this season,” Lachstock Consulting head of research and analytics Tom Ostby said.

The bulk market for Australian malting barley to Brazil was last going at pace in the 1980s and 90s.

Brazil has since been an intermittent buyer of Australian malt, and bought around 15,000t shipped from WA in 2019-20.

Flexi Grain pool manager Sam Roache said barley shipments this month and next were likely to exceed those seen thus far in new crop.

“On the stem, we see a continuation of big numbers.”

Long-term markets like Japan on food barley and price-sensitive feed markets like Qatar and  the United Arab Emirates as well as Saudi are featuring in Australia’s 2021 sales.

Additional support is coming from new and developing markets.

“Thailand is strong with 90,000t on the stem for January, and 30,000t nominated for March, which is well on the way to an expected new annual record.

Indonesia has appeared as the destination for a 25,000t cargo of barley shipped last month.

“This will make the largest annual shipment since 2004, so it’s basically a new customer.

“We expect this flow to grow significantly in the next years, with the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement providing Australian farmers with valuable feedgrain access to Indonesian markets.”

Indications are that Australia shipped 470,000t of barley to Saudi  last month, and will export 300,000t  this month.

“This will see Australia ship 1.2 million tonnes plus by the end of February versus a 10-year annual average of approximately 670,000t and a maximum of 1.7Mt.”

Mr Roache said Australia’s record annual barley sales figure to Saudi of around 3Mt would likely be surpassed in 2020-21.

“We are buying compound feed demand for barley into Saudi for the first time which is increasing the total Saudi demand from the traditional bagged wholegrain market.

“Australia is currently the cheapest supplier to this robust demand.”

Wheat cargoes are also loading at a cracking pace, with December Australian Bureau of Statistic’s figures published today.

Grain Central understands 4.7Mt in March 2017 was Australia’s biggest ever export month for combined Australian grain, pulses and oilseeds.

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