GRAIN consumers in northern NSW and southern Queensland continue to flock to barley as further concerns emerge about the upcoming sorghum harvest.
Grain analyst business Lachstock Consulting said a number of feedlots in northern regions have switched to a 100 per cent barley ration, reflecting current pricing and availability of feed grains.
Nick Carracher, chief executive of Lachstock, said his organisation had made further cuts to the upcoming sorghum crop.
He now has production at 1.65 million tonnes, a big drop on the 2m tonne number bandied around by many in the industry prior to Christmas on the back of a favourable end to the year, putting further pressure on feed grain balance sheets in the northern region, where much of the domestic demand for feed grain is centred.
Since the December rain, which had industry upbeat regarding sorghum production prospects, there has been virtually no rain in southern Queensland or northern NSW, with parts of the Darling Downs set for their driest January and February combined unless there are good falls in the last fortnight of February.
Mr Carracher said it was a complicated picture, with some early crops set to far exceed average yields, however, factoring in late crop, which he said would average around 40 per cent of average, overall he said there would be around a 15pc drop in yields.
He said based at current values, barley was the best value in the feed ration, ahead of wheat and sorghum, leading to the solid demand, even though the barley was having to move long distances, either from Western Australia via boat, or trucked in from the south.
And he expected barley to remain king over coming months.
"Given the nutritional complications involved with switching rations, this increased feeding of barley is effectively guaranteed for several months – and will continue to extend that time frame as long as current relative values hold," Mr Carracher said.
As a result, he said Lachstock had increased barley consumption in the two northern states to 1.4m tonnes, 800,000t in Queensland and 600.000 in NSW, which is close to a record level of barley feeding.
Mr Carracher said the access to intracontinental grain had contributed to the desire for barley, making it more easily available than in the past.
In terms of the sorghum crop, he said Central Queensland production estimates had been raised slightly, although he added there was still production risk involved there, as the crop is at an earlier stage.
He said domestic sorghum demand had dropped, reflecting the ongoing shift to barley.
Export sales look set to remain steady, with Chinese demand for the baijiu market a major driver.
Mr Carracher said he expected the Chinese to source Australian sorghum, even though it is dearer than rival destinations, as other producers, such as Argentina, do not have a product suitable for making the alcoholic drink.
On the barley front he said that while the increased domestic demand was providing support the lack of buyin from China, due to the anti-dumping case, was a significant concern into the future.