Rain brings sorghum boost

07 Feb, 2013 03:00 AM
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Liverpool Plains farmer David Carter,
Liverpool Plains farmer David Carter, "Rymere", put 450 hectares of sorghum on his 2550ha property, down from the original plan for 750ha because of the dry weather at planting, but is pleased with how the rain has kicked things along.

IT’S marvellous what a difference a week can make in agriculture.

Extreme heat and summer crops tonguing for a drink can change to upwards of 150 millimetres of rain in one event and to a brand new outlook.

That’s what has happened to the grain sorghum crop throughout the summer growing regions of northern NSW and Queensland from ex-tropical cyclone Oswald and Australia Day rain.

In addition, current bullish prices for sorghum may continue right through the now extended growing season, which could stretch right up to the last harvest expected possibly sometime in June.

While commodity agents were reluctant to quote sorghum market prices before storm damage was fully assessed, no dramatic up or downward changes had so far resulted, suggesting a continuation of the higher market trading.

Quirindi Grain Trading Pty Ltd’s John Webster said grain sorghum was making upwards of $255 a tonne on-farm at Bellata a fortnight ago, being bought straight off the harvester into the truck.

He even admitted paying more for an order he desperately needed the very next day, Australia Day.

Agfarm Queensland account manager Keith Gundry, Nambour, believes the market is not going to “come off at once”.

“There are premiums out there for early sorghum, especially going to the Newcastle market,” he said.

However, he predicted the extended harvest (since summer croppers dry sowed right up to the close of the planting window, and now have a potential crop) would not have the same pressure a normal harvest creates, despite plantings this season down at least two-thirds of a normal sowing.

So growers should make the most of premiums from early crops over later yields, but warns the premiums may not be huge.

“I’d say the sorghum price has risen $30/t to $40/t in four months and (is) probably about $80/t in front of where it was this time last year,” Mr Gundry said.

However, Melbourne-based analyst Lloyd George with Ag Scientia, alerts growers that while prices are still “historically, relatively high” due to what he calls a drought situation (resulting in an increase in hand feeding) and a smaller sorghum crop, it may not last.

“Prices are bullish at present but there are some big global (corn) crops coming soon and we are part of what happens globally, and that could reflect on prices,” he said.

“Old feed grain supplies on the east coast of Australia have a tight feel to them and when looking forward to the new crop, there’s potentially some significant pressure on that if the intended corn crop sizes of Argentina, Brazil and the US are produced.”

He says, weather permitting, the US is predicting a 70-year high corn sowing acreage this coming season off an “incredibly tight old crop situation” where stocks are down towards their lowest ever.

“Unless we see a weather problem in the Americas like last year, it’s likely we will see pressure on our prices,” Mr George said.

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