A Silver Lining On A Less Than Perfect Season
Chris Coore, Agfarm Advantage Manager
November 16th 2018
The 2018/19 harvest is about to hit its peak and grain growers nationwide are sifting through the flurry of grain marketing options deciding how to best market their grain this season. To assist in your decision making and help you see the silver lining in a less than perfect year, we’re going to take a look at the current global supply and demand model, the domestic supply and demand and weather outlook, and what all this means to Aussie grain growers when making grain marketing decisions this season.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an updated World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) on Friday 9th November. This report investigated key supply and demand figures for Agricultural commodities globally. The 2018/19 season wheat numbers aren’t looking favourable and will for the first time in six years, see a production decrease in global wheat. As we’ve explored in the past, large cuts in Russian (15MMT), Australian (5.5MMT) and EU (28.5MMT) wheat production has seen world demand for wheat larger than global wheat production. This has resulted in global ending stocks becoming tight which should see global wheat values remain well supported over the longer term.
It is a similar story for global barley. Global demand for barley is typically in line with production and has little room for a crop failure. So, world ending stocks are very tight suggesting prices will be well supported over the short to medium term.
Back home, we’re running our own supply and demand race, all due to the hideously dry weather the East Coast and South Australia has endured for far too long now. And unfortunately, there is little reprieve in sight. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) released its climate outlook for November 2018 – January 2019. It didn’t point to drought breaking rains like we’ve all been hoping for. It did the opposite. The outlook showed drier than average conditions, warmer than average temperatures and a 70% chance of an El Niño occurring. Great!
As the longer-term weather models are showing an El Niño is likely, we need to understand what domestic grain prices may do if this holds true.
First, let’s look at the East Coast onfarm feeding situation. This statement may seem obvious, but while an element of supplementary feeding is common, livestock farmers and domestic feedlotters still rely heavily on a good ‘green pick’ to keep the animals going. So, as we’ve seen over the past six months particularly, the reduced green pick has increased the demand for feed grain to keep these animals alive. Looking forward, the dry outlook (resulting in minimal green pick) should see grain consumption for the livestock sector keep growing and exceed last year’s demand. Now here in lies an issue… our crop is smaller year on year, and our demand could be higher. This should see domestic buyers push grain markets higher into 2019 as they scramble for cover in a tight year.
On top of the dry outlook, logistics will be put under a lot of pressure into 2019. As we have touched on in the past, the dire weather plaguing most parts of Australia’s cropping belt, particularly the Eastern Seaboard, has seen our traditional logistics model run in reverse. Grain is moving by vessel from Western Australia and by rail and road from South Australia to the east coast to help feed domestic demand. We’re then importing grain from the East Coast ports and moving it up country. This unusual reverse movement coupled with the distance travelled will put extreme pressure on the supply chain and is expected to cause delays in delivery creating short positions which will need to be covered throughout the year.
It all sounds pretty dire right. Small global crop, 70% chance of an El Niño in Australia, delays in delivering grain and more demand than supply. Where is the silver lining you ask? It’s in the price. And for those able to hold grain into next year, it looks as though it might just pay off. If you look at all the global and domestic factors at play here there is nothing to suggest the price of grain will fall as we move into 2019, everything we see suggests it’s going to go higher. Even (hopefully) if there is a drought breaking rain, we’re still running on fumes until next season’s crop comes off replenishing the depleted supply. The marketing decision? The industry has a huge task ahead to ensure grain is available to meet the domestic and international demand complex and this, in theory, should work in the favour of grain growers this season. Like we always say, each business is different and a strategy that works well for one farmer may not work for another. But, deferring a portion of your grain sales into 2019 looks as though it could be the silver lining this season.
To print or download this Agfarm World Market Update, click here.