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Australia ships 1Mt barley to further tighten domestic supply

by Liz Wells, 17 May 2018

 

AUSTRALIA shipped more than 1 million tonnes (Mt) in total of barley in March to make it the busiest month so far in 2018 for bulk handlers shipping barley out of southern Australia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics export data for March indicates a peak for malting exports for this year, which coincides with the end of the dormancy period for grain harvested in late 2017.

This means barley can be malted from the time it arrives in the country of destination, which has predominantly been China.

Australia’s maltsters are believed to be covered until new-crop supplies come on stream from the 2018 harvest, but the feedgrain market is still scrambling to fill orders for millers and animal feeders, and strong sales to Saudi Arabia in recent months have reduced domestic availability.

Barley Australia executive chairperson, Megan Sheehy, said the chance of repeating the big malting and feed shipments of March were unlikely.

“It would be surprising if we saw it continue month on month,” Dr Sheehy said.

Quadra Commodities trader, Robin Cassar, said dry conditions and a shortage of feedgrain being felt acutely in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland had well and truly decoupled eastern Australia’s grain prices from international values.

Australian feed barley is currently priced at around US$30-35 per tonne fob above world values for July-August shipment.

“That’s when Black Sea barley should come on to the market,” Mr Cassar said.

Strong demand from Saudi Arabia and China is believed to have exhausted Black Sea barley harvested last year.

This has fueled an international as well as an Australian domestic inverse in pricing, with barley being dearer than wheat.

Prices for grain delivered prompt to the Darling Downs in southern Queensland are currently quoted at around $365/t for ASW wheat, and $380/t for barley, close to $100/t above comparable rates in the key Victorian export location of Geelong.

“It’s a huge spread.”

The price differential has made it equitable for trading companies and end-users to price at least three cargoes of grain out of Port Adelaide into Brisbane as a cheaper option than road-freighting grain from southern NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

Industry sources have said the attractive prices of barley were influencing growers’ planting intentions.

An increased area was likely to go in as northwest Victoria and much of NSW, Queensland and Western Australia were still waiting for rain to plant winter crop.

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Table 1: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018 barley export data.

BARLEY Jan Feb Mar Total
Malting 178372 127845 630115 936332
Feed 453715 589005 452180 1494900
TOTAL 632087 716850 1082295 2431232

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