Waiting for pre-harvest rain
By Craig Ednie
14th September, 2023
As the harvest season rapidly approaches, growers are working tirelessly to complete pre-harvest tasks while eagerly awaiting the much-needed Spring rain. Once again, they find themselves struggling with a series of challenges, with one significant concern being the scarcity of fertilizers.
In the northern regions, the harvest is just around the corner, possibly commencing in as little as two weeks. This urgency is compounded by the fact that minimal rainfall has graced the growing areas of Queensland and New South Wales over the past week. With crops ripening quickly under the warm temperatures, some farmers in the north have already opted to cut their crops for hay due to dwindling yield prospects. Meanwhile, hay prices have strengthened thanks to robust demand from feedlots, dairies, and graziers.
Crop conditions across southern Queensland and north-western New South Wales are drawing unfavorable comparisons to the grim years of 2018 and 2019, when large areas were decimated by drought. Dry weather has also taken its toll on a significant portion of Western Australia's wheat crop, especially to the north and east of Perth. In Geraldton, conditions have deteriorated rapidly as the soil moisture has depleted, compounded by months of below-average rainfall. Farmers in these regions are painting a bleak picture, with poor yields anticipated.
In the southern areas, frost is becoming a cause for concern, particularly with forecasts predicting frost in some districts over the weekend. This situation could potentially impact both yield and quality as conditions continue to dry out rapidly. Nonetheless, there's a silver lining as many crops across southern New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia boast above-average yield potential. The most promising crops are expected to be in Southern NSW and Victoria, according to leading grain analysts. However, the fate of this harvest hinges on the September rainfall, as the crops are currently relying on existing soil moisture. As the temperatures rise over the next few weeks, the crops will become increasingly thirsty, making a timely spring break essential.
All eyes will be on the weather forecasts in the lead-up to harvest. While the outlook appears somewhat bleak for most regions, there's hope that favorable conditions will prevail, considering the significant potential seen thus far.
Grain prices have recently surged due to the expanding dry conditions in the south. Wheat and barley prices have risen as a result of limited grower selling in New South Wales. Further contributing to these price hikes is the weakening Australian dollar, which has prompted small quantities of crops to be booked for shipment ahead of the wheat harvest set to begin in Central Queensland.
Conversely, canola has witnessed minimal forward selling activity among growers. This trend can be attributed to stagnant canola prices, primarily due to current low demand and the anticipation of pricing into the EU by trade partners. Additionally, Canadian growers are not yet ready, as they are about to enter their peak harvest season within the next two weeks.
As we approach harvest season, let’s hope for the much-needed spring rain to alleviate the dry conditions leading into harvest.
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