Stick to barley or make a switch?

Growers from across NSW react to China's tariff on Australian barley

Cropping
Allan and Helen Wood, Deniliquin, have decided to plant field peas instead of barley. The Woods' two main businesses are barley and beef and they believe both will be impacted by China. Photo: Olivia Calver

Allan and Helen Wood, Deniliquin, have decided to plant field peas instead of barley. The Woods' two main businesses are barley and beef and they believe both will be impacted by China. Photo: Olivia Calver

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Growers react to China barley tariff.

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After China threatened (and has since confirmed) an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley as a result of their anti-dumping investigation, grain growers had to make a decision - switch out barley plantings last minute or stick to their guns.

In southern NSW, Elders Deniliquin agronomist Adam Dellwo said the majority of his clients had stuck to their plans but he was fielding a number of calls from growers looking to change to wheat or legumes, including lentils or field peas.

"Roughly 30 per cent have decided to change crops based on the news that came out last week," Mr Dellwo said.

But it is a tight window to make a decision on which way to go, as most growers in the southern Riverina race to finish sowing before the forecast rain event this week.

"When we start getting into the third week of May we start to lose yield potential," Mr Dellwo said.

Deniliquin growers change to peas

Allan and Helen Wood farm between Conargo and Deniliquin and have decided to switch their last 80 hectare block from barley to field peas.

"I haven't grown peas before, but I've got to try something else if the barley's going to be worth nothing," Mr Wood said.

The Woods had already sown about 160 hectares of barley this year.

"We normally grow barley and we have beef cattle, both of them could be impacted by China," he said.

As it's their first time growing peas, they've had to source the seed in a hurry, tracking down Kaspa pea seed through social media.

"I've already got all my barley seed, that's just going to sit in the silo now."

He said he wouldn't be able to hold onto much of the barley he grows this year due to storage limitations so would be at the mercy of the prices come harvest.

"It's a bit of a worry, it's a really good year, we need to grow something.

"The barley we planted is all up and going but if it's worth nothing, I will have lost 12 months."

Do the opposite?

On the other hand, Seednet representative for South Eastern Australia Stuart Ockerby said he had spoken to two growers who were looking to sow more barley than they had planned.

"Some growers use a theory of 'do the opposite,'" he said.

"Because everyone is pulling out of barley, they'll up their barley plantings thinking there could now be a barley shortage."

He said most growers switching from barley were turning to wheat, with a swing towards Durum wheat in particular.

"Especially on the irrigation country - we've had one particular grower in the Moama region looking at buying in up to 20 tonnes of Durum wheat to plant instead of the planned barley," Mr Ockerby said.

He said growers in southern Australia were lucky they still had the option to reduce their barley plantings if they wanted to.

"They're still in optimal sowing windows, if it had come two weeks later they wouldn't be in a position where they could change," Mr Ockerby said.

He said anyone who had planned on planting barley would have already bought the seed in.

"It won't lead to cancelled orders, they'll just be sitting on that seed now until next year," Mr Ockerby said.

Michael Skipper with son Jack, 2, Bereni Pastoral Co, Billimari near Cowra. The Skippers had already reduced barley plantings after early rain. Photo supplied.

Michael Skipper with son Jack, 2, Bereni Pastoral Co, Billimari near Cowra. The Skippers had already reduced barley plantings after early rain. Photo supplied.

Cowra swapped to wheat and cash crops

In the Central West region, a lot of farmers had already made the swap from barley to wheat given the early break that came.

Michael and Nicole Skipper and family from Bereni Pastoral Co, Billimari near Cowra, initially would have had over 300 hectares of barley in, but they wound that back due to the early rains.

"Our change wasn't really to do with the tariff, but because of the early break that came," Mr Skipper said.

"The (Cowra) region has seen a massive shift on the back of rain events ... we've now moved from barley to wheat."

Usually only growing barley for on-farm use, the Skippers have about 90ha of barley in that they intend to take through to harvest, and were sowing RGT Planet barley this week.

"We only grow it for our own silos, to satisfy our own feed requirements for our feedlot, we don't sell off-farm so won't be impacted," he said.

"All the Coolah wheat we have sown will be stripped for grain."

Peter Watt of Elders Cowra said they have seen some adjustments to programs as people in this area three to five weeks ago decided they had sufficient feed and forage.

"That meant late changes of programs looking at quicker maturing wheat, barley and canola," he said.

"They looked to exercise options for cash cropping as people realised they had plenty of feed."

In the last couple of weeks, Mr Watt said they have seen flexible decision making with a minority flexing out of barley and opting for wheat.

"This area we see integrated flexible farming systems that revolve around livestock, not cropping only," he said.

"A large extent of people have stuck to their guns with some area of barley, for feedlot or own confinement feeding areas.

"Barley straw also makes a good feedlot roughage source, or to be sold."

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