Feedgrain Focus: Prices lift as north turns dry

Liz Wells, February 9, 2023

Contract harvesting sorghum at Inglestone on the Western Downs this week. Photo: Jake Kane

PRICES for feed and barley in southern and northern markets have firmed this week as consumer and trade bids lift to pull grain out of grower hands.

In southern Queensland, the sorghum harvest is gathering pace, with truckloads from western regions already delivering at container packers and bulk sites.

Traded volume of wheat and barley remains thin as uninspiring elevator margins temper export demand, and growers are yet to push the button on prompt selling so they can backload fertiliser ahead of winter-crop planting.

Today Feb 2
Barley Downs $405 $400
SFW wheat Downs $395 $390
Sorghum Downs $400 $400
Barley Melbourne $375 $370
ASW Melbourne $422 $412
SFW Melbourne $412 $410

Table 1: Indicative prices in Australian dollars per tonne.

Northern dry aids harvest

Dry conditions have started to permeate conversations in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.

In the week to 9am today, little rain came to Queensland’s cropping regions. Registrations include: Clermont 13mm; Dalby 2mm; and Emerald 3mm.

In the summer-cropping regions of NSW, conditions are equally dry, with top registrations being: Dubbo 6mm; Mungindi 3mm.

It makes weather ideal for harvest, but means considerable rain will be needed to wet the topsoil to enable a widespread winter-crop planting from April.

“Sorghum prices are strong and growers with grain to sell aren’t worrying about selling wheat,” one trade source said.

“There’s a little bit of wheat they are trying to get out of silos, but not much.”

F1 barley remains the feedlot sector’s most sought-after grain, particularly for long-fed cattle.

“People have more wheat on hand than barley, and you can buy downgraded barley but, with the lower testweight, it doesn’t go so well in the ration.”

Robinson Grain trader Anthony Furse said the sorghum harvest was ramping up, and price varied depending on delivery location.

“All the growers want prompt homes,” Mr Furse said.

Early reports are of good quality and mostly above-average sorghum yields, and indications are that Chinese demand can absorb the lot.

With a hot and dry week on the forecast, the harvest already going in pockets of the western Downs, Maranoa and border region is expected to accelerate and move east quickly.

Mr Furse said while certain feedlots were wedded to barley, others will move to wheat when summer ends.

“A lot of feedlots are moving away from barley to SFW.”

With wheat grades converging in price, some feedlots are buying APW and H2 wheat as well as SFW to put in their rations.

Mr Furse said most growers are keen to see 25-50mm of rain after an unusually dry December and January, and they may therefore hold on to their wheat in case a drought market for it develops.

Slow in south

In southern markets, Victorian and NSW elevator margins are under pressure from cargoes being done out of Western Australia and South Australia.

It means feedgrain demand has been confined largely to spot buying from consumers who are waiting for grower selling to increase as loads of fertiliser are booked for collection ahead of winter-crop planting.

“Growers have slowed down, because of the late harvest; the first week of February is like the first week of January; there’s not a lot of grower selling,” Peter’s Commodities trader Peter Gerhardy said.

“Fert has been exceptionally slow, and all the ports are full and now it’s starting to move.

“Once the growers starts buying fertiliser and taking delivery in February-March-April, they will start to sell grain again.

“We’re in a bit of a holding pattern from the grower perspective, and consumers are throwing a few more dollars out to get some activity.”

Mr Gerhardy said wheat was more likely than barley to come to the market in the delivering-grain-collecting-fertiliser run.

“Farmers will hold on to that to feed to livestock if they need to.”


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