Grain prices fall rapidly as coronavirus spreads

Grain prices fall rapidly as coronavirus spreads

Coronavirus
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Impacts from the spread of coronavirus across the world on grain demand remain unclear, but the uncertainty is weighing on prices.

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GLOBAL grain markets have plunged, as fears the spread of coronavirus across the world could slash demand for crops, including wheat.

Impacts from the spread of coronavirus across the world on grain demand remain unclear, but the uncertainty is weighing on prices.

Government commodity forecaster, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, expects coronavirus will put further downward pressure on farm incomes, saying it represents a significant short-term threat to exports.

They said the outbreak was likely to reduce demand for Australian malting barley as well as other agricultural exports.

Few markets have escaped the frenzied global sell-off.

US wheat futures tumbled 8 per cent in the past few weeks, including a fall of 4pc last week.

Russian wheat export quotes have posted similar declines, which are putting downward pressure on Australian prices.

Global economies are also suffering, as attempts to control the spread of the virus bites.

Chinese manufacturing activity slowed at the fastest pace on record in February, as coronavirus paralyses the country.

Knock-on effects to other countries are certain, as China accounts for about a third of global manufacturing.

Sharp declines in the value of the Australian dollar is helping to shield farmers.

The Australian dollar has tumbled to an 11-year low of 65 cents as a mix of coronavirus, drought, bushfires, and a sluggish economic outlook put pressure on values.

ASX east coast wheat futures for a March delivery fell $6.50 to $352.50 a tonne in the past week, while the new crop January 2021 contract fell $15/t to $315/t.

Barley futures also came under selling pressure. Old crop barley futures were down to $305/t, with the new crop January falling to $283/t.

Heavy rain has started to fall in central Australia as a mass of moisture from ex-Tropical Cyclone Esther makes its way to eastern Australia. The slow-moving system has dumped heavy rain across WA's Kimberley region, to the delight of cattle farmers.

Models are still forecasting widespread rain across much of the Murray-Darling Basin. Accumulated totals of 20-50 millimetres across western and southern NSW are expected, extending into eastern Victoria.

Longer-term weather forecasts are promising. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting that most of southern Australia has a 60pc to 70pc chance of wetter than normal conditions in autumn.

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