THE NEWS may still be grim in terms of weather patterns, with a drier than average late spring and early summer still very much on the cards, but farmers across the nation have had a welcome respite to the dry through early October.
Several weather fronts have swept across virtually all regions throughout October, with Queensland farmers in particular, eagerly awaiting further heavy falls predicted for the weekend.
South-west NSW, one of the hardest hit areas by drought, was one area to receive good rain in a front that passed through at the start of the month.
There were widespread falls of 25-50mm across much of the pastoral country north of Mildura.
Menindee received 50mm in the deluge earlier this week. To put it into perspective, the far western town had only received 36mm for the entire year up until the downpour.
A band of rain through western Victoria earlier this week was less impressive in terms of totals but may well have a larger impact economically due to the exquisite timing in terms of crop development.
Falls of 10-30mm through the Wimmera region will consolidate the area’s yield potential following a parched September with virtually no rain.
While too late for the north of the region it will lock in close to average yields for some in the south and the west.
Peter Hicks, Kaniva, near the South Australian border, is one of the lucky ones.
“We had 25mm all up and it is just fantastic – we’re in the Garden of Eden here,” he said.
“The crop is still very much receptive to rain, it had been getting quite dry and some crops, such as the durum wheat, were starting to fall over but it will all respond.”
“We see the rest of the country and we know we are in a very lucky position here.”
He said all crops in his area would be harvested, in contrast to much of the rest of Victoria where significant tracts of crop land have been cut for hay due to a combination of dry conditions and frost.
Nick Carracher, risk consultant with Intl FC Stone, said his company had cut its national wheat estimate by 2.4 million tonnes from its September estimate, to total production of 16.4m tonnes.
He said the Victorian rain would assist in locking in baseline yields but said Western Australia would still be the major player in terms of tonnages.
“It is definitely a weird season and its extremely hard to predict what is going on with the market.
“The biggest issue is now not the production, which shouldn’t vary too much from here on, more the exports and how much wheat will we export,” Mr Carracher said.
“Obviously the market is pricing in the drought premium so every tonne that can will go to that domestic market, but there will still be an exportable surplus, so we’re watching what happens there.
He said the industry was also closely watching the predicted weekend rain and what it meant for the summer crop plant.
“The market is very focused on the sorghum plant and what it means for east coast balance sheets.”