AN END to 2018 can’t come quickly enough for many NSW grain farmers.
Winter crop harvest is mostly complete, and farmers are ready for a well-earned break and an opportunity to reset following a very difficult season.
For many, it’s been the worst grain production year in a decade.
NSW 2018 wheat crop of 1.98 million tonnes is the smallest in about a quarter of a century. Barley and canola crops were equally poor.
2018 was a season that was dominated by severe drought.
Crop prospects for the northern half of the state were largely set by the end of winter when many farmers had already abandoned or given up on the chances of a harvest.
Slightly better winter rainfall in the southern half of the meant that the Riverina, southern slopes and Murray were still holding out for a crop.
These hopes were dashed for many farmers in the south following one of the driest September’s on record.
Weather vagaries aside, crops in the southern half of the state, mostly, came in better than expected after crops responded to widespread early October rains.
Crops that farmers had written off after the dry September set up new heads and tillers, offering a pleasant late season surprise.
The New South Wales harvest is in its final stages. GrainCorp received a further 150,000 tonnes of grain into its NSW network in the week ending 10 December. This was about the same as the previous week. This lifted GrainCorp’s total harvest deliveries in NSW to 566,000 tonnes.
Victorian grain deliveries are coming in better than expected. GrainCorp received 260,000 tonnes of grain delivers in Victoria in the week ending 10 December which is the largest week of the 2018 harvest.
This lifted the total Victorian grain deliveries to over three quarters of a million tonnes with harvest still underway in some parts.
Northern farmers were pinning hopes on forecast rain needed to finalise sorghum plantings in the Liverpool Plains and the Moree areas.
Early week forecasts were promising but eventual rainfall totals come in well below initial forecasts.
Areas around Moree, Bellata and Narrabri recorded 15mm to 25mm for the week. Most of the Liverpool Plains had 45mm to 60mm but totals were lighter in the Boggabri and Mullaley.
Wheat prices pushed higher last week, reflecting higher prices in Western Australia.
Australian Standard White wheat into Newcastle was up $10/t to $445/t and similar increases were seen in the southern markets. Northern sorghum prices were under pressure on the forecast rain.
Australian Premium white wheat in Western Australia jumped $15/t last week with exporters reporting solid export demand for protein wheat by overseas buyers. Smaller gains were seen for the lower protein grades, with ASW finishing the week $7/t to $8/t higher.
Global wheat prices continued to firm last week on thinning export supplies from Russia and concerns of quality downgrading in the Argentine crop.
Heavy rain disrupted Argentina’s wheat harvest leading to speculation that Brazil, Argentina’s major export market, will have to turn to the United States for more of its protein wheat imports.