Cropping market update

The latest insights and information on the Australian cropping market as of April 2024.

Rain across the eastern and central states has meant that many growers are beginning to consider sowing winter crops. The exception is in the west, which has largely missed out on rain. 

The wet conditions across the east are also to blame for a delay in summer crop harvest. 

Read on for more on local conditions from our Technical Services Managers and catch up on the latest grain price movements from CGX.

From the field

"The agricultural area in WA has largely missed out on any summer rain, with many areas having the driest six months on record. Areas that have had some rain saw it quickly dissipate into the extremely dry profile.

“Many growers are prepared for an early start, however with such a dry weather pattern it brings on the decision - when do they start dry sowing? This will depend on the size of program, mix of crops and risk. Crops such as canola become a higher risk as the dry conditions continue. Small seeds of a high value will be playing on the mind of growers, especially in the lower rainfall areas of the state.

“April is a pivotal month for crop production in WA, we are all hoping for some favourable conditions.”

Bill Moore, Elders Technical Services Manager, Western Australia.

"With summer crop winding down, the focus has shifted to winter crop in Queensland, however, the later start to summer crop due to delayed wet season eventuating in December saw many growers switch from dryland cotton to sorghum crops. These crops have withstood extreme environmental challenges; mainly prolonged heat waves, high insect pressure including Fall Armyworm at unprecedented levels. Mungbean crops are coming off with most at desiccation stage or already in the silo. Extended rainfall across most areas of Queensland has had an impact on the harvest with further heavy falls predicted into early next week for some parts.

“Supply of seed for winter crop has been mixed with oats being the main challenge. Some growers have turned to multi species mixes for their winter feed options to take pressure off feed gaps in their operations due to lack of quality oats seed. Winter cereal seed supply is getting extremely tight especially barley and we are predicting a larger than normal chickpea plant to support cash flow options and present as a rotation option especially in paddocks with high levels of crown rot inoculum. Horticulture crops are in various stages of production. Transplanting of broccoli and iceberg lettuce. Potato and early onion have also been planted in the Lockyer Valley. Baby leaf vegetables and leafy vegetable are also in stages of planting weekly.

“Beetroot has seen a resurgence again in southern Queensland with reasonable plantings happening regularly. This has been driven by the fresh market demand for small pack beetroot.

“Agronomists are focussed on supporting clients to renovate flood affected fields in many areas to ensure future productive harvests as well as addressing high weed pressures due to the consistent rainfall events over the past few months.

“Cane farmers are preparing for the new season plant on the back of high sugar prices. Cotton crops in north Queensland and the Northern Territory have experienced high rainfall events and are at varied stages of development. Further south our cotton crops range from picking through to defoliation and are on target to produce good cotton yields, however the imminent rainfall event is worrying some growers in respect to maintaining quality.”

Maree Crawford, Elders Technical Services Manager, Queensland and Northern Territory.

“NSW has experienced further widespread rainfall recently, which has provided the confidence for growers to sow and even extend their planting areas. Cooler conditions and rain have decreased daytime soil temperatures, leading to optimal conditions for autumn in many regions. 

“Fallow sprays and solid preparations although late, have been completed with dual purpose and forage oats now sown in most regions of NSW. Wheat and canola plantings are underway with barley yet to be sown with growers are taking advantage of the moisture profiles at present. Slugs and snails are still predicted to be an issue and constant monitoring will be required across the front half of the season. 

“Cotton crops are starting to be defoliated in the southern regions, while most northern crops are defoliated, ahead of harvest. The crops are not going to set any records, but there has been reports of good yields in many of the valleys. Silver leaf whitefly has been the main cause for concern right across the season. Monitoring continues in some crops, mainly in the southern regions, but is reducing on the back of defoliation. 

“Grain sorghums continue to be harvested across the summer cropping regions. Harvest has seen delays though, on the back of variable weather conditions and increased dues. Some crops are taking longer than expected to reduce moisture levels. 

“Fall Armyworm has had an impact on maize and sorghum crops, right across NSW, with some yield losses due to the population pressure. Early intervention paid off for many growers, with harvesting of maize crops underway for silage. Continued rain events in NSW across the summer, have provided the ideal conditions for crops, which are still expected to yield very well.”

Adam Little, Elders Technical Services Manager, New South Wales.

Prices improve as demand intensifies

Nathan Cattle, Managing Director for Clear Grain Exchange shares his thoughts on the current grain market and what’s been happening on the exchange.

Grain buyers participating in the Australian market have stepped up their engagement to secure tonnes in the past few weeks.

There have been some significant lifts in prices bid and traded for many grades of wheat, barley, canola, pulses, and oats around Australia as buyers try to match price levels growers have been targeting.

Buyers have included both bulk and container exporters, domestic end users covering requirements, and domestic and international traders.

Demand has also been relatively evenly spread across the major commodities with wheat, barley and canola all having solid trading volumes with pulses and oats making up the balance.

Grain is regularly trading at better prices than advertised bids. The price being achieved has been driven by growers offering, buyers seeing it and jumping up to match what growers want to buy it.

Global grain prices have drifted lower early in 2024 on the expectation of good production in the major producing regions of the world. Yet the world is not abundant with wheat, or grain generally for that matter.

Global wheat stocks-to-use (available wheat) are expected to tighten this year, and that assumes good yields. Global corn stocks-to-use are expected to increase, driven by a big US crop which has not yet been planted.

Winter wheat crops are emerging from dormancy and spring crops such as corn, soybeans, high protein spring wheat, barley, pulses, and oats are still to be planted in the northern hemisphere.

Prices have already factored in reasonable global production, but with the northern hemipshere spring still ahead of us there is a long way to go. If good growing conditions don’t eventuate, there is potential for prices to improve.

We had an example of this at the end of March. The USDA released their annual Prospective Plantings report for 2024 which provides the first official survey-based estimates of US farmers planting intentions.

The report estimated US corn plantings down 5 pc year-on-year which makes the USDA’s previous forecast of US harvested area to be up 10 pc year-on-year very difficult to achieve. CBOT corn futures were up 3.5 pc as a result.

The northern hemisphere spring will set the tone for prices into our harvest as crop yields will be determined.

As demand for grain in Australia has grown in recent weeks, it's worth noting that the improvement is partly due to growers offering grain for sale at their target prices when bids were lower.

Buyers have consistently searched grain offered for sale and if they couldn't match the offer on the day, they knew it was there to buy if they could match the price.

By having grain on offer, even if bids were lower than where you would sell, or indeed there were other offers to sell at lower prices than you were willing to sell, it is still worth having your grain offered for sale.

Why? Because it keeps buyers interested in your grades of grain in your location because they know it's there - that's a good thing, otherwise they can move on!

There is no downside in having your grain on offer! It costs nothing to have a CGX account and nothing to have your grain offered for sale, plus you're anonymous at all times.

You can edit or cancel your offer at any time before it sells and if it sells you retain title of your grain until you're paid with CGX's secure settlement.

There is so much value to be generated in the simple act of growers "OFFERING" their grain for sale rather than accepting published bids.

We hope everyone had a safe and lovely Easter with reasonable prospects of rain in the coming months.

Login to your CGX or igrain accounts to see more price information and what’s traded.

38 buyer businesses purchased grain through Clear Grain Exchange (CGX) last week. There are plenty of buyers that can buy your grain. When looking to sell, ensure you offer your grain for sale rather than selling into published bids.
Many prices have stabilised or improved in recent weeks. Traded prices on CGX are dots versus best published bid lines.

Market indicators

Table shows best published bids and actual traded grain prices from Clear Grain Exchange.

 Want to control the selling price of your grain?

Clear Grain Exchange (CGX) is a secure and independent online exchange that allows you to set a price for your grain and market to all buyers.

It’s free to register and offer your grain at your price, pay nothing until your grain is sold.

To register or find our more contact click here or call 1800 000 410

“The best thing about CGX is you set your own price. I sell wheat and barley through CGX and usually achieve above the market value as advertised in the current market”

Jeff Burgess, grain grower, South Australia

Learn more about Jeff's experience with Clear Grain Exchange.

The information contained in this article is given for the purpose of providing general information only, and while Elders has exercised reasonable care, skill and diligence in its preparation, many factors (including environmental and seasonal) can impact its accuracy and currency. Accordingly, the information should not be relied upon under any circumstances and Elders assumes no liability for any loss consequently suffered. If you would like to speak to someone for tailored advice relating to any of the matters referred to in this article, please contact Elders.

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