Northern NSW farmers are staring down the barrel of one of the smallest sorghum crops in a decade. Some farmers have already given up hope of harvesting crops as the relentless dry weather inflicts its toll on crops.
And the failed sorghum crop comes on the heals of the smallest winter crop that northern NSW farmers have harvested in memory.
Agronomists are saying sorghum crops would still benefit from late rain, but attention is now turning to the 2019 winter crops.
Farmers are becoming anxious for rain to bolster the parched soil moisture levels ahead of planting wheat and other winter crops in the coming months.
Most of the NSW cropping areas are bone-dry following many months of below average rainfall, but not more so than the north west.
The deep black soils of the north are heavily reliant on summer storms to carry soil moisture into the winter for crops like wheat, barley and chickpeas.
But the heavy black soil plains are as close to dry as it gets following more than two years with limited rain.
The Bureau of Meteorology Australian Landscape Water Balance shows that most of northern NSW root zone moisture levels and every much below normal with significant areas as dry as it’s ever been.
Weather forecasts offer no immediate relief. The Bureau of Meteorology has maintained its elevated chance of an El Nino developing during the autumn or winter months.
Farmers have remerged as grain buyers as they wait for rain to replenish depleted pastures as the relentless dry weather continues to bight.
It feels like déjà vu from June and July last year but there has been a surge in interest in recent weeks from farmers in NSW chasing barley to feed livestock.
Australia’s wheat exports picked up in December as recently harvested crops in Western Australia started to be shipped. Australia exported 721,000 tonnes of wheat in December up from 308,000t in November.
More than one million tonnes of barley were exported in December as exporters work to get as much shipped to China as possible to limit exposure to the antidumping investigation.
China is expected to release an initial response to its antidumping investigation into Australian barley imports in February. Barley industry representatives have strongly denied claims that Australian barley was being sold into China at prices below world values.
Exporters and farmer representatives have put in submissions to China’s Ministry of Commerce to defend the antidumping claims. Impacts of the antidumping investigation are far reaching as it allows China to impose preliminary duties on imports following an initial 60-day period and the investigation may take as long as 18 months.
Grain priced remained under pressure last week on trader selling. Darling Downs wheat, barley and sorghum bids dropped $10 to $15 a tonne.
The US Department of Agriculture released its highly anticipated February world supply and demand reports late last week.
It was the USDA’s first report since December because of the shutdown of non-essential government services, but it failed to offer any surprises.
The USDA forecast that US winter wheat plantings would be the smallest in 110 years, after excessive rain limited plantings in several key states.
Globally, the USDA raised its estimate for Russia’s 2018-19 wheat harvest to 71.6 million tonnes from 70.0 million tonnes previously. Russia’s exports were increased by 500,000t to 37.0 million tonnes.