Storms disrupt harvest

UNSETTLED weather continues to slow winter crop harvesting through Victoria.

Mid-week storms which swept across much of the states cropping areas stopped harvest. Rainfall ranged from 10 to 25 millimetres across the Wimmera and Mallee with isolated reports of up to 50 millimetres.

Warm and windy weather late last week and over the weekend helped to ensure crops dried down quickly which should ensure there is minimal damage from the rain.

Early yields have been have been in line to slightly below pre-harvest expectations. Mallee farmers are reporting barley yields around 2 tonnes per hectare which is down on last year but still compares favorably with long term averages.

Protein levels in barley are been low with growers pointing the blame at nutrient leaching on the sandier soils following last heavy rains.

Low protein levels have proved to be a major problem in Southern Queensland wheat crops with traders reporting that ASW has been the major grain being delivered compared to the normal mix of higher protein grades.

The soft finish to the season has helped canola oil contents in the Mallee with several growers reporting oils above 42 percent.

Wheat harvest is not sufficiently advanced to say if the lower protein contents being reported in barley will also translate to lower protein in wheat. But it is a worrying trend with lower protein wheat prices showing sizable discounts.

International grain prices were under pressure last week with investors cautious over the fallout of a possible Eurozone breakup.

The USDA delivered its November World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates last week with few surprises.

USDA raised world wheat production by 2 million tonnes to 683 million tonnes with larger crops in Kazakhstan and the European Union.

World wheat imports were raised by 2 million tonnes to 137 million tonnes. This included a 0.5 million tonne increase in China’s wheat imports following the recent reported sale of Australian wheat.

The report confirmed an abundance of world wheat supplies for the 2011/12 season with ending stocks steady at 202 million tonnes which is the highest in a decade.

Global grain markets continue to pay close attention to corn market because of the historic tight supplies in the U.S. which is supporting prices.

USDA lowered U.S. corn yields in line with market expectations but those who were expecting this would result in stronger prices would have been disappointed with the smaller crop being largely offset by a decrease in domestic feeding.

Strong Black Sea wheat export demand continues to erode demand for other origins. Russia exported 8.5 million tonnes of wheat in the three months since they lifted their export ban at the end of June compared to just 3.4 million tonnes for the same period last year.

Last week U.S. Hard Red Winter wheat prices fell by $6 per tonne to $298 FOB while Soft Red Winter wheat was down by $4 per tonne to $261 FOB. Russian wheat prices gained $5 per tonne to $252 FOB Black Sea.

Continued strong Black Sea wheat exports are expected at these prices.

U.S. corn prices lost $2 per tonne to $280 FOB.

The ABS wheat stocks and usage report showed that Australia exported 1.49 million tonnes of wheat in September taking the total 2010/11 marketing year exports to a record 18.5 million tonnes.

Victoria’s wheat exports for 2010/11 were 3.0 million tonnes up from 1.7 million tonnes a year earlier.

Another bumper wheat crop for 2011/12 which is currently being harvested will be further boosted by large carry over supplies from last season.

According to ABS, the carry over wheat stocks held by the major bulk handling companies at the end of September 2011 were 8.2 million tonnes up from 5.1 million tonnes last year.

New crop supplies are still to become available to the market so were reflective of old crop supplies and spot demand.

Feed wheat bids gained $5 per tonne to $208 delivered Melbourne. Spot feed barley gained $7 per tonne to $207 delivered Melbourne.

New crop wheat prices eased on global influences. H2 wheat lost $3 per tonne to $247 delivered Geelong/Melbourne, APW was down $7 per tonne at $218 delivered port and ASW lost $8 per tonne to $192 port.

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