Feedgrain Focus: Northern barley lifts to buck trend

Liz Wells April 27, 2023

Planting canola into wheat stubble in the Victorian Wimmera this week. Photo: Jonathan Dyer

DWINDLING availability of barley in the northern region has piled $5 per tonne on to its value delivered Darling Downs this week to buck the steady to softer trend seen in other quoted markets.

With the Anzac Day public holiday on Tuesday making this week a short one, and growers across Australia planting at full tilt, offers for ex-farm grain are hard to find.

Trade activity is mostly confined to grain warehoused at bulk storage sites in the northern and southern markets, and Queensland is facing another short week with Monday’s Labour Day public holiday.

Today Apr 20
Barley Downs $430 $425
SFW wheat Downs $415 $414
Sorghum Downs $418 $418
Barley Melbourne $360 $367
ASW Melbourne $410 $415
SFW Melbourne $405 $410

Table 1: Indicative prices in Australian dollars per tonne.

North looks south for barley

Feedlotters on the hunt for barley have had to lift their bids in order to secure loads as supplies in north-west New South Wales shrink.

Trade sources report barley in the lower Lachlan Valley is now being investigated for May-June delivery Downs.

Barley ex Moree traded this week at $350/t but parcels at bulk storages and on farm are getting hard to find that close to the Qld border for the grain which is preferred over wheat by many smaller feedlots.

“The delivered Melbourne market is trading at a huge discount the Downs, so it won’t be long before stuff’s coming north from the Murrumbidgee,” one trader said.

Growers in the northern half of NSW and southern Qld are busy finishing their sorghum harvest, picking cotton, or both, as well as planting winter crops.

Traders said this has killed their willingness to out-turn grain as sorghum harvesting winds down and cotton picking ramps up.

Beyond the stockfeed market, most of the trade action in the north has been in sorghum, and the last few vessels out of Brisbane for the season are due to load in coming weeks.

“I don’t believe there’s a lot of sorghum left for growers to sell,” one trader said.

“The grower jumped in when the prices were high and got rid of it.”

The Central Qld sorghum harvest is expected to start in coming weeks, and shipping stems indicate several vessels are booked to load June-August as exports to China swing out of Brisbane and north to Gladstone and Mackay.

On cottonseed, Woodside Commodities managing director Hamish Steele-Park said values have eased $5/t easier in northern NSW and southern Qld in the past week, but have held steady in southern NSW.

“Export demand is waning at current values and US cottonseed still cheaper on a CFR destination basis versus Australian seed by approximately US$20-25/t,” Mr Steele-Park said.

Supply of new-crop cottonseed is climbing as more sites start up for the season.

“Ginning is starting this week in some valleys in northern NSW, and crop estimates are being revised higher on better than expected yields to date in northern NSW.”

This was confirmed by Cotton Australia’s revised forecast issued today.

With ginning not expected to start until late May in the Riverina region of southern NSW, its cottonseed market is likely to find support from limited supply over coming weeks.

South softens

Wheat and barley prices have dropped around $5/t this week, despite out-turns being largely confined to loads coming out of bulk storages.

Growers across southern Australia are fully immersed in their planting programs as lentils and canola go into the ground at the ideal time, and some are looking for 10-20mm of rain to keep planting at pace.

SFW wheat delivered Riverina consumer is trading at around $360/t, and barley from the region only has to drop a few more dollars to start pricing into the northern feed market.

Peters Commodities Riverina-based trader Peter Gerhardy said the lack of engagement from growers in selling is expected to continue to the end of May, when winter-crop planting will wind back.

“Growers are flat out planting into perfect conditions, and the only thing that will slow them up is if they get too much rain.”

“Consumer seems quite content, although the trade is chasing bits and pieces here and there.

“In the back half of April and through May, growers tighten up on execution, and I’m not seeing too many offers from growers at the minute.”

“The next round of selling we see could be in the back half of June to recoup some of their expenses on cropping inputs.”

Much of central and northern NSW is expecting 15-50mm of rain in the next week, which will be ideal to top up soil moisture ahead of planting of barley and bread wheat.

In southern NSW, Mr Gerhardy said rainfall in excess of around 15mm in coming weeks could delay sowing by making conditions excessively muddy.

“We’ve got a choc-a-block full profile, and 30-40mm here would cause headaches.”


Grain Central: Get our free news straight to your inbox – Click here


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Grain Central's news headlines emailed to you -