THE hot, dry summer that cruelled crop production in the northern farming region has forced suppliers to the birdseed market to make up the shortfall with imported seed stocks.
On Queensland’s Darling Downs, Deacon Seeds general manager, Mark Schmidt, said the business had had to look to shore up supplies of millets and sunflowers with birdseed from overseas.
“It has been a tough season with a lack of product being available and really high prices. Growers are saying they have never seen prices so high,” he said.
“The dry summers in Australia have depleted our access to product and we have had to look at international supply.
“Because millets have run really short we have started importing millet. We have been importing grey and black sunflowers, Panorama and White French millet.”
Mr Schmidt said such had been the demand for seed from some of the key growing countries that global stocks were starting to come under pressure.
“The concern going forward is the United States has almost run out of millets from where we have been importing White French millets, so their exports have slowed down,” he said.
“A lot of sunflowers have come out of Bulgaria. They are running short of product now.
“We have pretty well cleaned them all out because of such big demand over here in Australia.
“On the positive side, Bulgaria will harvest their next sunflower crop in September so there will be more coming through in November.
“The quality has been very good. It has been a lot cheaper than current prices.”
Mr Schmidt said the challenge for Australian production was if the rains again failed to arrive in September at the start of the sowing period, it would lead to a shortage of bird food going into the market in January/February/March.
He said Deacon Seeds was taking steps to cover for that possibility and to encourage local production to be planted to avoid imports.
“We are always wanting to use imports as a last resort. Australian-grown product is always preferred,” he said.
“We are going to be contracting on a hectare basis this year for millets to make sure we get adequate supply and will be talking to growers who can grow crop under irrigation so we can continue with a regular supply.
“Some of the millet planting seed varieties are starting to run short and we would encourage early orders to be placed. We have good demand in the export market for Japanese and Shirohie millets and will be doing hectare contracts on those. That is something we normally wouldn’t do, but we are doing it this year to make sure we can get supply for those markets and to secure birdfood for our local market.”