PORT Kembla is usually a powerhouse of bulk grain exporting at this time of year, but not so in 2018, following below-average yields across much of southwest and central NSW which depleted the export surplus throughout its drawing arc.
Trade sources report two part-cargoes of wheat – one of them durum – and one shipment of barley totalling around 40,000 tonnes are believed to be the sum of Port Kembla shipments from the 2017 harvest.
It’s a far cry from last year, when around 300,000t of grain and canola in total per month were being shipped from Port Kembla’s two grain terminals.
One is owned by GrainCorp, and recently shipped around 20,000t of barley to account for its current-crop exports from Port Kembla.
The other terminal is owned by Quattro Ports, whose shareholders are Cargill, COFCO, Emerald Grain and QUBE.
Quattro Port Kembla earlier this month shipped 9060t of durum bound for Egypt to top up a cargo from South Australia. A second wheat cargo which part-loaded in Newcastle is scheduled to dock in coming days to load 13,900t of Hard wheat bound for Vietnam.
First for durum
Cargill is the exporter of both wheat cargoes loaded at the Quattro terminal. Trade sources said the bulk durum shipment was a first for southern NSW’s only grain port.
While the grain may have been sourced from the traditional durum heartland of the Liverpool Plains in northern NSW, it reflects an overall upswing in the category’s popularity.
Australian Grain Link general manager of trading, Graham Allen, said durum was gaining ground in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, where growers liked to plant it in rotation with cotton.
“It’s quite a significant crop now, and it can be planted into July, later than other wheats, which gives time to get the cotton off,” Mr Allen said.
“It’s a grain that utilises the surplus nutrient cotton can leave, so that top-grade DR1 requirement of 13-15 per cent protein is achievable.”
Domestic beats export
Mr Allen said the shortfall of feedgrain in Queensland and northern NSW was giving much of the grain harvested in 2017 an “absolutely domestic focus”.
“Everything is shuffling north, and the pricing up and down the east-coast market zone reflects that.
“Barley is at a premium to feed wheat, and that shows the impact of the smaller supply.
“It’s so dry here, and everyone’s sitting on their hands. If growers are holding it on-farm, they are concerned they might be needing grain for feed themselves.
“Given our situation in the eastern states, we are factored in on full execution on south to north.”
Mr Allen said dry weather into late April could well drive domestic grain prices higher.
“If we have a dry four weeks, we have potential for significant upside.”
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