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Qld goes against the grain amid national stock revival

Statewide

The biggest rebound in national grain stocks seen in almost half a century is expected to bypass Queensland where patchy rain through winter will deliver below average yields for the state’s grain growers.

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With harvest due to start in Central Queensland next month before moving steadily south until the end of November, grain forecasters are tipping a national wheat crop of 26 million tonnes.

It’s the biggest year-on-year rise in production and export volumes in 50 years, according to ANZ Agri research director Michael Whitehead, who is tipping strong demand from the bread and noodle needs of markets across Asia, and a boost from the free trade agreement with Indonesia.

“After last year’s drought-hit low of 15.2 million tonnes, this would be an increase of 71 percent,” he said.

“In addition, on some current estimates, wheat exports are currently forecast to jump by around 90 percent to 17.5 million tonnes.

Whitehead said the forecasts spell great news for growers, many of whom are coming off the back of two tough drought years.

News of a grain revival couldn’t have come at a better time, with concerns still persisting that Australia’s food security is in peril due to COVID-19 disruptions and farm debt has ballooned to $19.10 billion, an increase of 10.75 per cent on 2017, according to the 2019 Queensland Rural Debt Survey released this week.

AgForce Grains president Brendan Taylor said the harvest result for Queensland growers in coming weeks would be mixed, even within districts where rainfall fell unevenly through the winter growing period from May.

“The bulk of the crop will come from the southern part of the State but Central Queensland really struggled this year,” Taylor said.

“That said there are still some farms that will be producing some great crops when harvest gets under way.

“It’s hard to make a general statement because even within the same postcodes you’ll have some really good patches and really crook patches, and some places where they haven’t managed to plant any crops at all, which basically sums up the whole season.”

Taylor said late winter rainfall would generate the State’s healthiest grain yields on the central Downs around Dalby and Toowoomba and south to Thallon. He told InQueensland the outlook for his own barley crop at Warra north of Dalby, supplied to the stockfeed market, was “looking pretty good”.

While the winter harvest will be variable for Queensland, Taylor is expecting the State could see a massive sorghum plant go in the ground over summer, with growers taking full advantage of recent rain that’s topped up their soils’ moisture profiles.

The increased activity across the grains sector in coming months has observers like Whitehead urging all stakeholders along the grain supply chain to ensure they are well-prepared, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic escalates.

“Growers, contractors and traders will also be looking ensure adequate availability of harvesting and transport machinery, including headers, trucks, and train capacity,” Whitehead said.

“While the COVID-19 situation in Australia later this year is difficult to predict, it would be wise to factor in any implications from possible continuing restrictions on cross-border movements between States.”

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