Feedgrain Focus: High-speed harvest fills northern homes

Liz Wells, November 2, 2023


Harvesting in the Moree region last month. Photo: CHS Broadbent

WITH Queensland’s harvest all but over, the northern market is trading sideways and in minimal volume as near-term homes get harder to find.

Consumers generally are seen as covered into February, although the contrasting cooler weather in Victoria, southern New South Wales and eastern South Australia is likely to throw up a few shorts this month if a pronounced time gap appears between the northern and southern harvest.

Southern values have softened slightly as yield prospects appear shored up by recent rain, while in the north, forecasts for up to 50mm into next week have buoyed hopes for planting dryland sorghum.

Today Oct 26
Barley Downs $440 $445
ASW Downs $450 $450
Sorghum Downs Mar-Apr $440 $440
Barley Melbourne $352 $357
ASW Melbourne $400 $402

Table 1: Indicative prices in Australian dollars per tonne.

North passes harvest peak

Trade activity in the northern market has slowed to a trickle now that harvest is past its peak in all regions bar the later Liverpool Plains.

Prospects of even an average-sized sorghum crop being harvested on the Downs or north-west NSW look slim due to very dry conditions, but growers who get around 50mm might chance planting, even if their subsoil moisture reserves are depleted.

Trade sources report a hiatus in barley boats coming into Brisbane from South Australia and Western Australia as both states concentrate on exporting new crop, and domestic demand in the northern market centres on local and southern supplies.

“There are no boats at the moment; the market’s not paying to bring it around by ship when they can get it by road,” one trader said.

“It’s been a small harvest, and there are plenty of trucks you can book for 10c/km.”

However, expensive fuel prices may push up the road rate in coming weeks.

Traders report barley off the header is coming up by road from Central West NSW, with  the Downs market at $90/t over Melbourne justifying pushing it north instead of south, or to port.

While execution of previously booked sales continues at pace, new business is limited.

“We struggle to find prompt homes for anything the grower offers us; most of the feedlots are filled up,” another trader said.

“Some growers are keeping their grain on farm; it’s not a big harvest, so they have room to store what they don’t want to sell now.”

Exporters and flour mills are buying Hard 1 and Prime Hard 1 and 2 wheat.

“Everything H2 and below is going down an animal’s throat.”

“Wheat is good quality, but there’s not a lot of high protein; anything that’s H2 is just making H2 at 11.5 percent protein; we’re not seeing 12s.”

“Demand for H2 in the market has now moved into Jan-Feb; nearby is covered.”

Low proteins mean more malting barley than was expected has been produced in Qld and northern NSW, but with the north’s domestic malting requirements covered, the feed market is the only option for growers wanting to sell off the header.

“The crop in the north is a month earlier than normal; homes have filled up very quickly.”

“If it doesn’t rain, Qld’s harvest everywhere but on the Inner Downs will be finished.”

Slower start in south

Harvesting of barley and windrowing and harvesting of canola is nearing full pace in central NSW and in the western Riverina, and is starting to move into slopes country.

Peters Commodities Riverina-based trader Peter Gerhardy said some growers were selling canola for around $620/t depot for seed with 45pc oil.

“Some farmers are saying: ‘I’ll take the money and run’,” Mr Gerhardy said.

He said the north’s feedgrain demand, which is expected to exhaust local supplies some time next quarter, and the growers’ own on-farm demand for sheep and cattle, where tempering off-the-header sales of barley.

“Growers have got one eye on the weather; there’s a lot of mixed farming down here, and they don’t want to be running out of grain if they need to feed their animals with this El Niño around.

“Once growers put grain in on-farm storage, they’re not going to bring it out in December, January or February; it’ll be in there for a while.”

Mr Gerhardy said buying interest in the southern region is thin ahead of the Victorian harvest hitting its straps.

“Consumers are full now and sitting out for new-crop, which will be lobbing into Melbourne in a fortnight or so.”

Barley on-farm in the Mallee is trading at around $290/t, and the strength of the Downs market is enough to keep dragging it north by road, even with around $115/t in road.

While conditions in the Victorian Wimmera and surrounds have been unseasonably cool, crops are ripening at a cracking pace in South Australia outside its South East.

Major SA bulk handler Viterra today stated that its October 2023 deliveries totalling 925,000t have set a new record for October intake.

“We welcomed deliveries to our sites earlier than usual this season, with growers harvesting two to four weeks ahead of a typical harvest,” Viterra said in a social media post.


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