FLOODING in some of the country’s main durum wheat growing regions has many concerned significant downgrades are on the horizon, as waters begin to subside.
The extent of the damage is still unknown in most cases with headers only just venturing into northern New South Wales paddocks at the weekend. But many growers are preparing for the high-value pasta wheat to end up in the feedgrain market.
Gunnedah-based agronomist Jim Hunt said growers were hoping milling companies could separate feed grade durum from bread wheat.
“We are hoping there is some segregation of the two products there, so there is a chance of making this year’s durum marketable,” Mr Hunt said.
“If it is segregated it will give the millers access to it, they can decide how much they want and then a price can be negotiated. But if it is not separated, then will all just end up as feed and there won’t be any chance to market it as anything other than feed.
“Generally, the quality is going to be very good and the properties will be good, but there is potentially a falling numbers issue.”
Crop damage still unknown
Mr Hunt said a lot of details were still unknown about this year’s crop, with paddocks still inaccessible across most of the area.
“The amount of durum planted this year was reduced, because the winter crop last year was so big and rotationally avoid sowing durum on durum,” he said.
“Some growers around Narrabri, Edgeroi and Bellata were starting to harvest, because the crop was finishing up a bit earlier. But I heard they only managed to get some nooks and crannies off before it started raining.
“But as you go further south into my area on the Liverpool Plains, the rain has come smack bang in the middle of harvest time. We needed another two weeks of hot and dry weather to get it off.”
GrainCorp has been contacted to see if it will heed the calls for separation of durum. A spokesman said given the size of the current harvest, storages were pushed.
“We are not separating the segregations at this stage. Currently, any sites receiving durum are running a FED1 segregation to combine all off-grade wheat and durum varieties and provide a delivery option for growers,” the spokeswoman said.
“We haven’t had any buyers request a specific segregation for feed grade durum at this point.”
Peter Howard from grain exporter the Australian Durum Company said it would be hard for GrainCorp sites to separate durum.
“There is so much bread wheat around making it very difficult for GrainCorp to take it in, although I have heard they may be taking it at Curlewis,” he said.
“If it is possible for growers to store the low-grade durum on farm, we would definitely be interested.”
High export demand for durum
Mr Howard said there was still demand in Europe for shot and sprung durum if it was made available.
“We have shipped out a lot of low-grade durum in the past because the Italians can blend it up,” Mr Howard said.
“This year there is a global shortage of durum with the Canadian crop being so small, the value of downgraded durum should still be reasonable.”
Mr Howard said shipments to Europe earlier this year had drawn down on durum stocks after a bumper crop last year filled up storages.
“There was one guy with about 4500 tonne and he was very clever to hold onto it,” he said.
“But we did a shipment in September which pretty much cleaned out all the storages in northern NSW.”
More adverse weather is forecast this week, with cool weather already setting in and a rain system on its way.
Mr Howard said it was still too early to tell how the season was going to pan out, with 50 to 70 per cent of the crop still to be harvested.
“A number of our really good growers, who we deal with every year, are saying they are another week away, others are saying they might be harvesting at Christmas,” he said.
“Further south, around Griffith there is a lot of dryland durum but you have to wonder about the quality.”
Grain Central: Get our free cropping news straight to your inbox – Click here
HAVE YOUR SAY