THE 2017-18 national sorghum crop could hit two million tonnes of production should the current damp conditions in northern Australia continue over summer.
This was the opinion of Nidera Australia origination manager Peter McMeekin, who flagged a large plant on the back of sustained moisture throughout Queensland and northern NSW through October.
Mr McMeekin said there was a large amount of land available to plant summer crop, due to the failure of winter crops in many areas.
“On the back of the potential area, and the good planting rains, the crop could easily be 1.8mt, and of the favourable conditions continue, then more than 2mt is achievable,” he said.
This compares to last year’s drought-impacted crop of just 800,000 tonnes.
The 2016-17 crop also had record low plantings, due to the low price for coarse grains at seeding time.
Mr McMeekin said northern growers saw the rain’s major benefit in terms of setting up soil moisture for the summer crop, rather than a late season boost to winter crop, due to the dry conditions over winter and early spring.
“When rain arrives in October or November, the summer crop planting window is still open, but it could be too late for the winter crop to derive much benefit in many areas, and it starts to disrupt the harvest program.
“This is especially the case in a season like this year, where the crop is quite advanced following a long dry spell.”
He said farmers would push hard to generate an income with summer crops such as sorghum, given prices of around $270 a tonne delivered Darling Downs, historically a good price.
“There are paddocks that have been allocated to sorghum as part of the regular crop rotation, and then you can add the paddocks left fallow, due to lack of moisture for a winter crop plant, and those where the winter crop was planted, but subsequently abandoned, and the potential area becomes significant.”
Malcolm Bartholomaeus, Bartholomaeus Consulting, agreed the pricing signals, combined with the good recent falls, were conducive to a significant summer plant.
“There’s areas that have already had 100-200mm and that is a good start for summer croppers.”
“After low prices this time last year on the back of the large winter crop, prices are much more supportive for growers wanting to plant sorghum.”
Mr McMeekin said the gross margins on offer with current prices were acceptable to growers and that sorghum was stacking up well as an option compared to other summer cropping options.
He said sorghum was trading at a discount of around $60/t to wheat and barley into the key Darling Downs region, which he said would encourage end users to consider sorghum as an option in their ration.
However, he said if the crop was to come in at the high end of current estimates, there would be an exportable surplus.
Already he said it was expected central Queensland sorghum would be exported, but if southern Queensland and northern NSW get a good year he said there would also be the likelihood of exports out of Brisbane and Newcastle.