ISSUES with fusarium head blight in the huge Canadian durum crop have sparked an increase in Australia prices.
Demand from Europe and the Middle East is expected to increase as export markets look for high-quality durum following downgrades for the record Canadian crop as well as the European crop.
Australian Durum Company director Peter Howard, Sydney, said high-quality durum would be in demand this year
“Prices are improving because of the Canadian situation,” Mr Howard said.
“They’ve had tremendous weather damage, so the majority of the Canadian crop is now low-grade durum.”
Canada, the world’s top durum exporter, had estimated its crop at eight million tonnes.
“That’s up from five to 5.5 million, so it’s the biggest crop on record,” Mr Howard said.
”If they had very good quality durum that would have swamped the market.
“Europe has also had a wet harvest so they've had low quality grain as well.”
Australian growers are expected to harvest 200,000 tonnes for export and 65,000 tonnes for domestic use.
“It’s a similar crop to last year,” Mr Howard said.
“There was less planted, but we’re expecting the yields to be better.”
Durum was trading between $300 and $310 a tonne last month, and was fetching $350/t to $356/t earlier this week, delivered to Newcastle.
Mr Howard said durum could reach last year’s prices of $380/t to $390/t if the Australian crop’s quality remains high.
“With any luck we'll get the fine weather which tends to improve the protein levels, but some might be affected by fusarium, a fungal disease in grain during flowering,” he said.
“Many growers won’t sell until they know what quality they've got.”
Hillston grower Paul Cleton, Riverview Farming, is one of few growers to have already sold his crop.
Mr Cleton farms in partnership with his wife Jenny, parents-in-law Paul and Carole Storrier and Jenny’s brother Michael Storrier and his wife Stacy.
“It’s all sold but some could go off the header and the rest will be stored on farm for when the trader wants it,” Mr Cleton said.
“The big problem for us coming into harvest will be the logistics of getting the crop off and stored.
“The Lachlan River hasn’t peaked yet, but if it does we’ll have trouble getting into town.”
The Riverview Farming team are expecting to harvest the durum in mid December, depending on weather.
“Some plants aren’t even flowering yet, but it could be earlier if the weather heats up,” Mr Cleton said.
Tamworth-based durum breeder Gururaj Kadkol said harvest could be pushed back with the wet season, but most crops would be harvested by early December.
He said growers were expecting good yields, but there were concerns about grain quality.
“Yields will be high because of the good moisture conditions during the season, but if there is more rain there could be loss of grain quality,” Dr Kadkol said.
“We just need warm weather for good grain quality and many growers would have applied extra nitrogen to get the protein content in the grain.”
Growers should continue monitoring crops for disease.
“The main issue has been chloride deficiency, and there is a small amount of fusarium head blight, but our expectations are that it’s low risk,” Dr Kadkol said.
Wet season for Hillston durum
IN CROP rain has allowed the Riverview Farming team to save irrigation water for this year’s durum crop at Hillston.
Paul Cleton has planted 400 hectares of Bellaroi variety durum, with the whole crop under sprinkler irrigation.
He got 320ha planted in late May and early June, with wet weather hindering planting. The last 80ha went in in the second week of June.
”It hasn’t got the yield potential of the early planted durum but it’s looking pretty good,” Mr Cleton said.
With nearly 450 millimetres of in-crop rain, it’s only had a small amount of irrigation all season.
“We haven’t had to water it. It only had the one irrigation after topdressing with urea and with the way things are looking – if keeps raining – we won’t need to irrigate again.”