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    FINAL STRETCH: Alex Rees harvests wheat at his family farm in Telangatuk East as the season ended across the Wimmera earlier this month. Picture: KAREN REES

AgLife: Full steam ahead for grain growers

By Abby Walter

Grain farmers across the Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians are not slowing down in the post-harvest period as summer weed spraying programs enter full swing, while they keep an eye on market prices.

Grain Producers Australia southern grower director Andrew Weidemann, a Rupanyup farmer, said rain during December and January meant there was moisture in the soil ahead of planting 2024 crops.

“It certainly puts us in good stead for the coming months, although it’s been frustrating for some farmers,” he said.

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“There are some who had a later start in certain areas due to greener crops and some crops damaged by the weather.

“We’ve been spraying almost as soon as the headers stopped — in some cases, we started spraying summer weeds before the headers stopped — and I think most farmers in the area are probably similar.

“Humid weather led to quite quick weed growth in paddocks, so where the sheep can’t contain them, for those who have stock, it’s going to be a spray program that continues for a while.”

Mr Weidemann said there would likely be a high turnover of chemicals for summer weed control, but the expense could be outweighed by yields at year’s end.

He said rain totals above 20 millimetres, which areas across the region experienced throughout December and January, allowed moisture to be banked in soil.

“Less than 20mm generally gets transpired off the top before it has time to soak in,” he said.

“I have been talking to a few farmers with soil probes and they have nearly a full profile of moisture in some areas.

“That bodes well for another good crop potential this year. 

“Of course, it is only potential as it’s all about trying to make it work at the other end, too.”

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry reported Australian export prices, as of January 18, had declined between 10 and 28 percent compared to the same time last year.

Milling wheat exported at $449 a tonne, feed wheat sold for $428 a tonne and feed barley exported at $372 a tonne.

Canola exported at $745 a tonne and experienced the largest annual change.

Market Check chief executive Nick Crundall said more farmers were storing grain on-farm or keeping it in the system at the end of harvest, rather than selling it, due to declining prices.

Mr Crundall said harvest pressure and no buying appetite meant wheat had dropped about $30 a tonne since the beginning of the season.

“The crop, especially in Victoria, came off better than expected and at the same time, global wheat markets are lacking any real demand and the domestic consumers have also bought what they need for the next month or so,” he said.

“China was a big story going into the Christmas break. They bought a lot of wheat off Australia and the United States, which had everyone very excited. They’ve gone quiet, so the question is when they come back.

“We know they have a lot of demand but at the moment they are reluctant to be in the market.”

Mr Crundall said barley had also fallen to a similar tune of $30 a tonne.

“Barley had a great story going for it in the fact the northern NSW and Queensland crop was particularly poor with an El Nino meant there was a lot of domestic demand,” he said.

“China was also paying, so it was all looking very rosy for barley.

“China is not buying now and we had a lot of summer rain the market wasn’t anticipating, so the northern feed market has been crushed.

“At the same time, we have been going through harvest and the Aussie dollar is kicking so all these things together have weakened the barley market.”

Mr Crundall said the worst price drop had occurred in the canola market, after a string of years of high yields and historically high prices.

He said Europe, which is Australia’s largest export destination, had access to more canola and conflict in the Red Sea meant offshore markets were weak.  

“The canola markets are just clinging onto $600 a tonne which is about $200 lower than it was at harvest last year so it’s been a very disappointing year,” he said.

The entire January 31, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire January 31, 2024 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!