Soybean growers in the domestic market have been handed the best prices in a decade with quality, non-genetically modified crop, for human consumption bringing $650 to $670 a tonne – the best in a decade.
Competing buyers Peter Brodie Agrifood at Toowoomba and Ross Larsson’s Mara Global Foods at Shannonbrook and Mallanganee via Casino have been competing strongly for the Northern Rivers crop, blessed with a “best ever” scenario.
This in-demand product, which ran out of stock weeks before harvest, has created “most aggressive” bidding war between the two major players in the soybean trade, says Richmond Valley producer and president of North Coast Oilseed Growers, Paul Fleming.
Oilseed buyer Cargill has not been involved in the Northern Rivers harvest because the market is dominated by edible beans, particularly those planted before late December, on the last of early moisture with critical flowering in late February.
Widespread coastal rain through flowering and bean-fill had the desired effect while high-summer dry conditions – on plants already established – forced them to set deep roots.
Mr Fleming said his crop – mostly Bunya, Richmond and Asgrow A6785 varieties, across a variety of soil types from light to heavy at Ellangowan and Codrington yielded up 20 per cent on his 10 year average to 4.3t/ha. Quality was also up.
“The last time we had prices it was a tough season everywhere including here,” he said, and we binned something like 20t all up. This year has been exceptional.”
On the coast best yields reached 5t/ha for a bushy crop of Hayman from Bruce Green, Lawrence, who got his beans up and established before the dry heat of January.
Organic crop at George Bennett’s Springrove property, via Casino, brought $1200/t, up just $50 from last year. His beans were planted early December and ran into hot weather in early February at flowering.
Beans on the Tablelands and on the western slopes proved of good quality, despite a dry finish, although Hayman varieties planted late and ready to harvest now have not been assessed, according to Ross Larsson, Mara Global Foods.
Soybeans to the west around Inverell struggled in difficult conditions, especially at the end, with estimates of two tonnes to the hectare optimistic in places.
Crops in Queensland’s Burdekin fared well, as did those in the Brisbane Valley including Beaudesert, according to Ian Morgan, with PBR Agrifoods. But desperately dry conditions on the Darling Downs, slightly less so at Killarny to the east, resulted in a frustratingly compromised crop.
No sign of price drop for quality beans but ...
High prices for human consumption, non-genetically modified soybeans appear firm into the future.
“I’d like to see this price stay for a while and give the growers what they deserve,” said Ross Larsson, Mara Global Foods. “We want to see the soybean crop double in size in rotation with corn.”
But he warned retailers at the finish could only be pushed so far. “We as processors get squeezed in a market like this but it is for the best outcome for the total industry,” he said.
Ian Morgan, PBR Agrifoods, said demand for quality non-GM beans remained strong with supply diminished which benefits the grower but puts a squeeze on processors who know that retailers like Coles and Woolworths will only budge so far.
“If you push the end user they can do some funny things,” explained Mr Morgan. "Farmers are the same. They have a choice. If the price is too low they will grow something else.”
At the same time he said the supply and demand equation dictated a strong, immediate future for soybeans.
“I can’t see prices coming back,” he said. “The end user has the quality of the Australian product and the varieties bred for the market. “But if they have to pay more and more money inevitably they will look overseas.”
Meanwhile, the international market – dominated by genetically modified soybeans for oil and livestock feed – is trading at two year highs (US$440/t or AUS$570). Growing Chinese demand for pork production, frigid relations with US trade, and drought in Argentina have created price support.
Analysts like Cheryl Kalisch Gordon at Rabobank, speculate China may tighten their buying in 2018/19 after a stronger second half 2017/18 buying program to secure supplies ahead of any tariff applied to US imports.