Will India be the next market mover?
By Darcy Ingram
29th August, 2023
How Whilst the northern feed markets continue to price at significant premiums, grain values in the south - particularly wheat - have been far more sedate despite plenty of fresh inputs to the grain news cycle lately. The deterioration of yield prospects in the Queensland and Northern NSW crops has resulted in skyrocketing feed grain prices as consumers look to shore up supplies for the massive number of cattle on feed. The increasing values has understandably widened the Darling Downs normal draw zone with grain flowing from much further afield in recent times. However, with crops in southern NSW and Victoria faring far better and renewed supplies soon to be available there are limitations to how far and at what premium it makes sense to source grain at.
Australian exports have slowed in recent months with the trade continuing to search for fresh market opportunities to justify pushing values higher across the country. China’s welcome return to the Australian barley market has so far provided a near $30 increase to local feed and malt prices while hot, dry conditions in the US Midwest continue to be monitored as corn and soybean crops remain at risk. Global commodity markets are showing reluctance to be as reactive to updates regarding the ongoing conflict in the Black Sea as they have in the past. Concerns for the security of the now expired Black Sea grain deal and impacts to infrastructure and logistics related to the movement of grain from the region previously resulted in significant market swings. Recently however, any changes seem to result in far less volatility largely due to Russia’s seeming imperviousness to export hinderances. Russia has dominated global export business following last year’s record harvest, eagerly and efficiently moving their stocks to countries in need, at well below values other exporters have been willing to offer their grain. Without a significant change to the current export landscape, local prices remain at risk of sitting stagnant or softening as Australia looks to become more export competitive.
India’s trade plans are being closely monitored as they consider importing a large volume of wheat for the first time since 2017, in an attempt to curb rising food inflation costs. India is one of the world’s largest wheat producers, usually only exporting a small volume to neighbouring countries while using the vast majority domestically. Last year the government was forced to impose a ban on wheat exports following a disappointing harvest and concerns are growing that this year’s harvest is likely to be even worse. Production is expected to be around 10% lower than government forecasts and well below the country’s domestic requirements. If so, India may need to import stocks to shore up their falling government reserves and get domestic wheat prices under control. Whilst reports are somewhat varied on India’s intentions there has been apparent discussions with Russia for as much as 9 million tonnes. Whether Australia would be a competitor into this market or not, a purchase of this size would certainly be a significant shift for global wheat markets and potentially be the next big market mover.
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