BARLEY may be attracting headlines for all the wrong reasons in terms of pricing and quality issues, but the industry all agrees on one point – there are plenty of tonnes about.
Barley Australia chairman Andrew Gee expects this year’s barley harvest to smash the 10.4mt record set in 2003-04.
“Every time we assess total production it seems to get a little bigger.”
Farmers in all areas are reporting big yields, with plenty of reports of 5 tonne to the hectare crops and some pushing 6t/ha.
Chris Delahunty, from Victoria’s Wimmera region, said he had just started the barley harvest and early signs were good.
“There are excellent yields so far and I would think that will be the case in all of our area apart from the guys who have had frost damage.”
In NSW, Caragabal farmer Dan Cooper said yields were holding up well.
“People are pretty pleased with the tonnage around.”
South Eastern Australia Barley Advisory Council chairman Simon Tickner said there were some reports of light frosting in parts of the Wimmera bringing yield down but generally said farmers were pleased with the yields.
“The frost has just knocked a tiny bit of cream off the top for some, but on an overall level, the crop is in top condition.”
Mr Gee said the remarkable part about the crop was the fact most key production zones are going well.
“You usually have one area suffer, and while we’ve seen WA hit by the frost it is far from a disaster, this is why we think we should hit record production levels.”
In terms of the quality profile he said there was some grain making malt parameters, while protein, black tipping and shriveled grain were the major culprits to cause downgrading.
While the news is good on the production front, a Victorian farmer is questioning whether current prices of around $140 a tonne delivered upcountry for feed barley represent sufficient value.
Chris Kelly, Woomelang, said his research had found feed barley was making around $A290/t delivered port in China.
He said he had been hearing of strong demand out of China for coarse grains such as barley and sorghum.
“I think it is just too big a difference between $290/t in China and $140/t here for feed barley.”
However, Cargill Australia spokesman Peter McBride said the current Australian prices reflected the world market.
“The current global oversupply of global feed grains and a reduction in domestic feed demand is impacting on Australian feed barley prices,” he said.
Mr McBride said Australia had to contend with a massive US corn crop and a huge stockpile of feed grain in China, both major factors in keeping prices down.
He also said off-specification milling grade grain was acting as competition into the feed sector.
“We have also witnessed quality issues with the Canadian and Argentinian grains harvest and they are currently exporting into international markets like China, Japan and Saudi Arabia which results in a lower Australia barley price.”
“These international factors combined with a huge Australian barley crop and reduced stock feed demand in Australia is depressing Australia feed barley prices.”
Mr McBride said low feeder cattle numbers and depressed dairy prices were keeping a lid on domestic feed grain consumption as well.