Australian grain exports surge


Suspicions of strong grain exports were confirmed in last week’s monthly exports data, which showed record large wheat and barley shipments from Australia in January as last year’s massive grain harvest flows into overseas markets.

ABS said that 2.5 million tonnes of wheat exported from Australia in January and 1.0 million tonnes of feed barley. Total monthly shipments of wheat, barley and canola in January exceeded 4.0 million tonnes for the first time driven by strong export demand.

The strong record large exports will go some way towards stemming concerns of export bottlenecks. Record large wheat shipments from NSW showed the benefit of their two new export terminals.

More than a third of the wheat shipments went to India. Australia has shipped more than 1.3 million tonnes of wheat to India since the start of the 2016/17 season in October. Busy shipping line-ups for February and March suggest this pattern is set to continue for the next couple of months.

Australia’s monthly barley exports exceeded 1.0 million tonnes in January for the first time, and the back of strong demand from China and Saudi Arabia. China imported 561,000 tonnes of barley from Australia in January, according to their customs data. Most of the remainder is likely to have been shipped to Saudi Arabia.

Canola exports are advancing at a record pace with a further 550,000 tonnes shipped from Australia in January. Strong demand from Europe is driving the canola export pace, with November to January now above 1.5 million tonnes. Europe has been a keen buyer of Australian canola amid a smaller crop in Ukraine and limited availability of certified sustainable canola available from Canada.

However, the strong start to the 2016/17 grain exports will need to continue well into the season if Australia is to avoid a subtidal increase in carry overstocks following last year’s record harvest.

Robust exporter demand and escalating weather concerns, particularly through Queensland and northern NSW, have added a firmer tone to local grain markets in recent weeks.

Northern markets are leading the way with as growers have turned reluctant sellers following the hot and drier than normal summer. Newcastle stockfeed wheat prices up by $3 to $227. Darling Downs feed barley prices have jumped by $12 in the past four weeks as buyers step up efforts to build their grain coverage.

Some domestic grain users stepped up purchases amid the mounting weather worries combined with robust demand. The Australian Feedlots Association said cattle numbers in feedlots jumped by 18 per cent in the last quarter of 2016 from the previous quarter, despite the ongoing strength in livestock prices. The surge in numbers were driven by big increases in the north. NSW feedlot numbers jumped by 36,131 head while Queensland was up by more than 70,000 head.

Most farmers are reporting they expect to seed similar areas of wheat and barley next year, with canola plantings slightly higher. However, canola seed shortage may limit how much more land can be planted, with seed distributors reporting they are fully sold and having to limit some customers.

ABARES said they expect Australia's 2017 wheat production to fall by about a third on a return to average yields. They pegged the coming crop at 24 million tonnes, down from last year’s record large 35.1 million tonne harvest. Australian wheat plantings are expected to decline by 1 per cent in 2017 to 12.8 million hectares as farmers seed more canola and pulses, ABARES said.

Northern NSW and Queensland farmers are becoming increasingly concerned about the weather outlook. Blistering summer heat and sporadic rainfall has dried out soil moisture reserves and farmers are holding out for soaking rains before they consider selling more grain.

Difficult summer weather has also taken a heavy toll on sorghum and cotton crops which will also limit northern grain supplies.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology upgraded the chances of an El Nino forming later this year to 50/50 last week.  The Bureau said the eastern Pacific Ocean has warmed over the last fortnight, driving many of its climate models towards the El Nino threshold over the next six months.  Seven of eight international models surveyed by the Bureau indicate steady warming in the central tropical Pacific Ocean over the next six months. Six models suggest El Nino thresholds may be reached by July 2017.

Readers choice: TOP-5 articles of the month by UkrAgroConsult