As the last parts of the grain harvest are completed in NSW, chickpea growers face an uncertain future for their harvested crop with rising container freight costs and uncertainty on how downgraded chickpeas will be sold.
A leading grain trader said some growers may be forced to hang on to their chickpea crop for a year while international trade settles down.
It's believed containerised trade to Bangladesh, one of Australia's major markets for Desi chickpeas, is under pressure due to shipping freight hikes making it almost unsustainable.
Some February container freight prices are being quoted at $8000, up from $3000. Only two shipping lines serve Bangladesh and there's been a trend towards shipping lines preferring lighter, higher-paying cargo. There is a bulk trade out of Queensland to Bangladesh that may alleviate any market pain.
Farmers are generally being quoted $515-$520 a tonne for chickpeas (delivered Wee Waa).
On the positive side, trade with Pakistan is not as expensive and new opportunities have opened up, although good rain in Pakistan may mean they do not import as many chickpeas this year.
Some of the pulse crop has been downgraded due to mould from the big wet, and it's not clear at the moment how this grain will be sold.
"A lot of growers may be holding on to their chickpeas well into next year," a trader said.
Sam Heagney had a good chickpea crop at south Bunarba, south of Mungindi, but about one third of his crop was downgraded. Some of the better yielding chickpeas went 3 tonne a hectare.
He's been offered $530 a tonne on farm.
Mr Heagney says the price is low compared to previous years, but the operation at South Bunarba is about crop rotation more than market prices. He has segregated the downgraded and premium chickpeas into different bunkers on farm.
"For us, chickpeas are a long-term commitment. We have the standard rotation from cereal into chickpeas, we don't really follow the markets."
They finished all their harvesting in early December. They've planted dryland cotton and sorghum, with some of the cotton going under in floods, but that is proving to be beneficial and the crop is looking great, he said.
Almost the whole harvest is completed in NSW, wth just pockets in the east of the Riverina, around Harden and Temora and near Albury still being completed.
Australian Custom Harvesters president Rod Gribble said most farmers were able to get their crops off despite weeks of wet weather in November and December.
"Some of it will be downgraded but the yields have been high on the plus side," he said.
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