Feedgrain Focus: Markets flat as sorghum ramps up

Liz Wells, February 29, 2024

The first load of sorghum for the season arrives at CHS Broadbent’s Jondaryan site this week. Photo: CHS Broadbent

GROWER selling has slowed to a trickle as prices for wheat and barley ease further in the north and flatline in the south.

Trade sources report contracts booked up to three months ago are being executed to keep grain flowing through the system, but new export and domestic business is thin.

In the south, growers are hopeful the barley price will rally when Chinese buying comes out of its current lull, and that wheat prices will firm once shipping of Black Sea and Western Australian wheat slows.

In the north, sorghum harvesting is gathering pace and early loads are going mostly to domestic consumers.

Today Feb 22
Barley Downs $370 $375
ASW wheat Downs $368 $370
Sorghum Downs $352 $350
Barley Melbourne $320 $320
ASW wheat Melbourne $340 $340

Table 1: Indicative prices in Australian dollars per tonne.

Northern sorghum

Trade in the northern market remains extremely quiet, with feedlots well covered into the next quarter, and the poultry and pig sectors waiting for new-crop volume to hit the bins before they advance coverage.

China’s hectic buying pace on Australian sorghum appears to have slowed, and trade sources say any new-crop loads trading into Brisbane are mostly going to consumers rather than export accumulators.

Depot bids are around $325/t on the Darling Downs, just high enough to catch some grower selling.

Rainfall in southern and Central Queensland in the week to 9am today includes: Clermont and Springsure 7mm; Dalby 11mm; Emerald 17mm, and Macalister 19mm.

The rain has been very patchy, and welcomed by those with mungbeans, cotton and late sorghum in the ground.

It is also topping up moisture profiles ahead of winter-crop planting, which will start in Qld in April.

On cottonseed, Woodside Commodities managing director Hamish Steele-Park said values remain rangebound.

“Domestic buyers have been standing aside in the market,” Mr Steele-Park said.

“There is some export interest at $540/t DCT, which is keeping values steady.”

After old crop being at a large premium to new crop for most of last year, Mr Steele-Park said the price inverse between old-crop and new-crop cottonseed has narrowed to evens.

New crop ex gin is now priced around Moree at $420/t, Namoi Valley at $415/t, Murrumbidgee gin $425/t and Macquarie Valley $420/t basis gin spread 2024.

Domestic consumers of cottonseed are also sitting out of the market on the idea of strengthening supply from the pick which will start next month and gather pace over autumn.

“There’s talk that the cotton crop is getting a bit bigger due to dryland yield potential, and it seems most estimates range from 4.8 to 5 million bales.”

South slow

In the southern market, grower offers are up to $20-$30/t over market bids.

“It’s generally pretty dead; growers aren’t overly keen to engage at these levels.” Peters Commodities Riverina-based trader Peter Gerhardy said.

“You might get the odd guy pushing some out for fertiliser, but in general, growers are content to sit on their hands.”

Another southern trader said prices have fallen to levels where the grower has disengaged.

“Growers are starting to pull up on selling at $300/t ex farm for wheat, and maybe slightly lower,” the trader said.

Market talk says fertiliser prices will ease between now and June, so growers are showing interest in selling grain mid-year to backload with urea for top-dressing.

Most have covered their planting requirements for fertiliser with earlier cash sales and are in no rush to sell more before June.

“We’ve had a little bit of grower selling inquiry for post June.”

“On barley, I think they’re holding on to stocks knowing China has been buying, and hoping the barley price gets up to where wheat is.”

While much of south-eastern Australia is in the midst of a heatwave, growers generally have enough subsoil moisture to only need a top-up rain prior to the opening in April of the main planting window for winter crops.

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