Grain market update: looking west

19 September 2018

In August, feed wheat delivered Darling Downs traded above $450/tonne for the first time since April 2008 (Profarmer).

Feed grain prices continued to rise strongly during winter, driven by demand from livestock producers and the growing lot feeding sector.

While high numbers on feed and limited pasture growth should ensure demand for feed grain is sustained over the coming months, where the grain will be sourced (and at what price) is far less certain. The latest ABARES crop report predicts a 12% year-on-year fall in production for the national 2018–19 winter crop.

For the week ending 15 September, Darling Downs feed wheat was up $105/tonne year-on-year, or 33%, to $445/tonne. Darling Downs barley ($440/tonne) and sorghum ($407/tonne) have also experienced strong gains, with many indicators doubling since January 2017 (Profarmer). Prices for some grains have surpassed 10-year highs, and, are now comparable to those witnessed during the 2007–08 global food price crisis.

Turning to the September Australian crop report (ABARES), winter crop production* for 2018–19 is forecast to be 9% below the 20-year average. Poor growing conditions in Queensland, NSW and Victoria should see production in these states fall by 38%, 46% and 29% year-on-year respectively, while WA production is forecast to rise 12%.

National grain supply will rely heavily on WA this year, with state production expected to exceed 16,000kt. WA production is forecast to account for 49% of the national winter crop in 2018–19, compared to a five-year average of 37%.

Since the September report was released, two widespread frost events occurred in the state’s grain belt over the weekend. While the damage is yet to be fully assessed, early reports suggest WA production will still meet the needs of east coast demand.

*winter crop production includes barley, canola, chickpeas, faba beans, field peas, lentils, linseed, lupins, oats, safflower, triticale and wheat.

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