How Time flies
By James Urquhart
27th September, 2023
It seems like only yesterday that we were celebrating a Geelong premiership, but 12 months has flown by and its Grand Final week again. It also feels like we only just put last year’s harvest to bed, but in the blink of an eye we are back at it again. Hastened by hot and dry conditions, harvest has arrived in the northern cropping regions of the east coast and SA and with no sign of any speedhumps on the forecast, will gather momentum from here.
Unfortunately, harvest in the north will be a short and sharp affair given the poor autumn break and ensuing dry growing season. It is hard to believe that this time last year, growers in these regions were battling to get headers in the paddock due to flooding.
Elsewhere, there are some handy looking crops, with most of the potential sitting in southern NSW as well as Victoria, SA and the southern half of WA. But, as if we didn’t already know it, El Nino has been made official and for those with still a bit of finishing to do, all eyes are on the weather forecast searching for one last drink to convert that potential into tonnes.
There is clearly still a long way to go, but as a country we are projected to produce a “normal” sized crop. Albeit significantly less than what we have seen in recent years, estimates are in the order of ten million tonnes of barley, five million tonnes of canola and in the low 20’s of wheat. Despite El Nino and drought conditions in the north, the realisation of those estimates would deliver the 6th largest Australian winter crop on record.
The regionalised nature of the production means that there will be grain moving in unconventional directions and it may take a shift in mindset for growers to reassess how or where their grain is best marketed. It was only a few short years ago we saw domestic supply chains running in reverse with road, rail and coastal vessels shifting grain from areas of surplus to areas of demand and there is general agreement that this will happen again to some extent. How much, where from and via what mode of transport depends on how the crop ultimately yields, what the quality profile looks like and how the grower engages with the market. Nevertheless, with the inevitable deficit in the north, we can expect the poultry and feedlot consumers of southern QLD to provide a strong level of support to prices going forward.
In other news, we will continue to see futures markets gyrate on the back of headlines out of the Black Sea region, but an unsung hero of today’s grain markets is the weakening currency. If we can maintain current AUD levels or lower and somehow chance an inch of rain, this harvest would begin to look a lot more like finals material. Failing that, the next best thing would be to see Collingwood fall short this weekend.
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